Gov. Mitt Romney’s big win in Florida is not just important because of the momentum or winner-take-all, whopping 50 GOP convention delegates he will receive. It shows that evangelicals, Catholics, social conservatives, and Tea Party supporters are coalescing around one candidate, Mitt Romney.
With this, Romney has won the conservative Christian vote in half of the primary contests so far This critical group makes up a plurality of the Republican primary vote in Florida, over 40 percent.
There are several key factors that have led conservative Christians to rally around Romney. First, Romney stands for the values that evangelicals and social conservatives hold dear. He is strongly pro-life. In addition to winning an award from a major pro-life organization in Massachusetts as governor after vetoing expanded access to the morning-after pill and expanded fetal stem-cell research, Romney pro-family, pro-life values are now touted by Florida’s pro-life advocates as well as those in other states across the country.
He has been steadfast in his defense of marriage and religious liberty. After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage by judicial fiat, then-Gov. Romney went so far as to file a lawsuit to force the Massachusetts legislature to act on a citizen-initiated marriage amendment. His defense of religious liberty earned him the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s coveted “Canterbury Medal,” an award given to leaders in the fight for freedom.
Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ (and Jordan’s father), has also strongly endorsed Romney, believing that he best represents our values and has the ability to beat President Obama and enact conservative change.
In addition to supporting Romney’s commitment to conservative values, conservative Christians have also taken a more in-depth look at Former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s words and actions. His history of extramarital affairs, ethics problems, and overwhelming pride are far outside the evangelical mainstream. One can believe redemption is possible and still not trust Gingrich. As David French said yesterday on CNN.com, “No one doubts that God forgives, but only God knows Newt Gingrich’s heart. We only know his actions, and we know that he has a history of deceiving even those who are closest to him.”
Yet, affairs and ethics issues are not the only reasons evangelicals should reject Gingrich. Just this week, audio was uncovered of Gingrich in 2009 – during the heat of the debate over ObamaCare – praising the proposed legislation and advocating for the individual mandate. He stated, “We believe that there should be must carry – that is, everybody should either have health insurance or if you’re an absolute libertarian, we would allow you to post a bond ...”
Conservatives have also grown tired of Gingrich’s all-out assault on free market capitalism, attacking Romney’s achievements in the private sector, more akin to Occupy Wall Street protesters than a Republican candidate. When Rep. Paul Ryan proposed a budget to scale back our out-of-control national debt – which is a major moral issue – Gingrich called it “right-wing social engineering.”
Gingrich’s continued incendiary remarks and record of failed leadership are turning evangelicals and Tea Party supporters against him.
With his big win in Florida, Romney takes a commanding lead in the GOP delegate count and he will only build on that momentum through February where he is expected to do very well in Nevada, Arizona, and Michigan. As Super Tuesday quickly approaches, more and more conservative Christians are lining up behind Romney as the candidate to take on Obama.
Jordan Sekulow is Executive Director of the American Center for Law & Justice and writes for On Faith’s blogging network at the Washington Post. David French is a Senior Counsel at the ACLJ, a graduate of Harvard Law School, Lipscomb University, and a Captain in the United States Army Reserve. Matthew Clark is an attorney for the ACLJ.