TV preacher and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell is working with allied pastors in an effort to screen potential Republican Party presidential hopefuls, seeking to ensure a candidate to their liking gets the nomination in 2008.
Falwell’s National Liberty Journal reported recently that Falwell and several other evangelical leaders traveled to Boston to meet with former Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney, a one-term governor who endeared himself to the Religious Right by opposing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, plans to seek the GOP nomination for the presidency next year.
Falwell’s newspaper reported, “Over the course of the next year, the evangelical leaders will be meeting with several prospective candidates, hoping to find the man or woman whose principles and views most closely resemble their own.”
Falwell was quoted as saying, “We are hoping to find the next Ronald Reagan.”
After the meeting with Romney, Falwell spoke well of the former Massachusetts governor, remarking that he believes evangelicals will support Romney, even though he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).
At an appearance in Mississippi in late November, Romney reportedly told Republican leaders in Rankin County that he had Falwell’s backing. Falwell subsequently issued a statement denying he had issued an endorsement.
“It has come to my attention that a statement attributed to Governor Mitt Romney suggests that I have endorsed his candidacy for President,” read Falwell’s statement. “I have met with and respect Governor Romney, as I do many of the other prospective candidates for President.”
Continued the statement, “If Governor Romney becomes the Republican candidate, I could certainly support him. However, I have not endorsed or offered support for Governor Romney or any other candidate and have no plans to do so in the immediate future.”
Falwell and his supporters are worried that the GOP might nominate a moderate in 2008. A leading Republican contender, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has shown surprising strength in early polls and has high approval ratings. Giuliani is pro-choice on abortion and supports gay rights, making him anathema to the Religious Right.