Ralph Reed’s presidential tent revival in Myrtle Beach

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Myrtle Beach, S.C. AP/David Goldman

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Myrtle Beach, S.C. AP/David Goldman

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Hours before a critical debate, Republicans held a tent revival. Literally.

While the Secret Service swept the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in preparation for this evening’s five-man conversation, Ralph Reed drew South Carolina voters to a massive, heated tent across the street where they could listen to each candidate perform his own warm-up.

There was no sawdust floor, no sweaty bouts of testifyin’. Just an unchallengeable, standing room-only demonstration that, six years after a calamitous run for lieutenant governor in Georgia, Reed is back in the center of Republican presidential politics.

Prosperity gospel was in vogue. With a few loud – perhaps accidental — bars of “Money, Money, Money,” the revival opened with a video address from Donald Trump, who declared that the world “is laughing at the stupidity of our leaders. They’re absolutely taking us to the cleaners.”

To South Carolina primary voters, Trump said, “You must choose the right person.” But Trump didn’t say who it was.

Reed followed, and throughout the event detailed his plan to build an organization every bit as influential as the old Christian Coalition – if not more so. Reed promised a Faith and Freedom operation in “every key battle ground state,” and an effort to search out and register 17 million inactive evangelicals. Come Election Day in November, his group plans to contact 27 million like-minded voters seven to 12 times.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition is an attempt to unite evangelicals with tea partyists, but religiosity had the upper hand on Monday afternoon. When Reed asked tea party adherents to raise their hands, only a quarter of the audience did so.

***
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was the first candidate to speak. It was a rambling address that touched on God and country, his father’s exploits as a B-17 tail-gunner during World War II, and his record in Texas. As would all the other non-Romneys, Perry included as a major topic the matter of authenticity.

”If you really want to know how a man is going to perform in the future, look at his past,” Perry said. He accused Democrats of attempting to “whitewash the public square of all spiritual values. “Somebody’s values are going to get legislated. The question is this: whose values are going to get legislated?” the governor said.

***
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was the next celebrity, there to introduce Mitt Romney, now the man to beat. “I want so much to have someone who has nothing to do with the chaos in Washington. I saw this man fix broken companies,” Haley said – an unspoken defense of Romney’s years at Bain Capital.

Coming to the stage, Romney was the only candidate to acknowledge that this was Martin Luther King Day. “I think he’s a great man and I appreciate his service to our country and our Constitution,” he said.

Romney trotted out familiar lines – that he was there to collect on President Barack Obama’s promise of improved times. He recited the lyrics of “America the Beautiful” – again. No mention of Jon Huntsman’s endorsement. And no mention of any other candidates – just Obama.

“His path on jobs is kind of hard to figure out,” Romney said. The country, he added, needs someone who “understands on how to create jobs because he’s had a job, and I have.” In past speeches, Romney has directly said that he has created jobs. This is a subtle change.

Perhaps with Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, out of the race, Romney also felt free to boost his anti-abortion credentials by accusing Vice President Joe Biden of acquiescing to China’s one-child policy during a recent trip to Asia. “The next president of the United States should stand up for the sanctity of life in this country and anywhere else in the world,” Romney said.

***
Romney was one of only two candidates to have two advocates speak for them during the afternoon. Jay Sekulow of metro Atlanta, who heads a Christian legal defense organization, was a Romney supporter in ’08.

“We share a compassion for the Jewish state,” Sekulow said. “Who are we to dictate to the Israelis what their borders should be when they were the ones attacked in 1967?”

***
Sekulow was followed by Jeff Ballabon, a Jewish activist from New York, who cut loose a pair of zingers – but made no endorsement. “We need a president who understands that Iranians building nukes are worse than Jews building homes in Jerusalem,” he said. “America needs a president with the spine to confront Iran.”

***
It was a close call, but Rick Santorum may have generated the strongest reaction from those gathered under the tent. Santorum explained why he, a Catholic, was once named by Time magazine as one of the nation’s top evangelical leaders.

“I was the only non-pastor on that list,” he reminded the audience. “They called me the point man.”

Politics isn’t about subtlety. Santorum spoke of “core convictions.” He asked the crowd to examine the beliefs of each candidate. “Is it because of what they really believe in their heart…or is it because they happen to be running in a Republican primary with conservative voters,” he said.

Santorum asked the South Carolina voters not to concentrate on picking the man who would eventually be the nominee. “It’s not about winning or not winning. It’s about how you want to win. Do you want to win by being just a little better? Or do you want to win with a mandate, as Reagan did, reminding each and every American of who we are.”

“I didn’t run for president to be the most powerful person in the world. I’m running for president to make you the most powerful people in the world,” he said.

Santorum alluded to Romney’s health care overhaul in Massachusetts. “This race should be, must be, two visions of stark contrast. We can’t have someone who gives that issue away.”
He rattled off the names of all four of his opponents. “Only one did not support the Wall Street bailout. Me. Clear lines, sharp contrast,” he said.

***
Ron Paul was next, and warned of the dangers of democracy run amuck. “It wastes and then exhausts, and then it murders itself,” he said. Paul compared himself to the Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament, searching for a “remnant” of true believers.

“We need to look into the morality and constitutionality of our monetary system. The Bible is very clear only gold and silver can be used as legal tender,” he said.

***
Newt Gingrich was last, and late. U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., gave a preliminary introduction, addressing Gingrich’s debating skills. “He will eat Mr. Obama’s cookies and all accoutrements thereto,” Franks said.

Reed actually preceded Gingrich, but was forced to stretch things out. Only a day before, Reed had given Santorum an effusive introduction, and had promised to do the same for Gingrich.

“[Gingrich] made a huge difference in our values. We would not be where we are, as a conservative movement, were it not for people like Newt Gingrich,” Reed said, declaring that the former U.S. House speaker had presided over the “greatest renaissance of conservative values since Ronald Reagan.”

Gingrich was pleased – and got straight to the point. “Unless a conservative wins Saturday, we’re going to wind up with a moderate nominee who will have a very difficult time defeating Barack Obama. You need a candidate who is far enough to the right so that all the attacks fall into the empty space in between,” Gingrich said.

Republicans need “somebody who has believed what they believe for more than three or four years and not be confused,” he said. Gingrich drew murmurs from the audience when he criticized Romney for the inclusion of abortion funding in the Massachusetts health care plan. And drew blood again when he said that Massachusetts, “ranked 47th in job creation because he kept raising taxes.” After each jab, Gingrich quickly moved to Obama – linking the two.

As the audience exited the tent, volunteers engaged in the South Carolina tradition of handing out anonymous smear sheets. One promoted Gingrich as “the best candidate to stop a one-world government.” Another attacked Romney: “If you’ve been laid off, you’ve already met Mitt Romney.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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47 comments Add your comment

clipper

January 16th, 2012
8:01 pm

Jim, you do a decent job relaying facts but your attempts at being funny are pathetic.

BRW

January 16th, 2012
8:07 pm

There’s nothing funny about insuring these goons never step foot in the White House. If they do, we will return to being the laughing stock of planet earth that Bush II made us.

double

January 16th, 2012
8:14 pm

a good groupe religious men gently,constructively debating the weakness of each other,and of our President.

Alphare

January 16th, 2012
8:16 pm

Last time Ralph Reed has a list, he used it to charge the Indians based on the number of names.

Now he is compiling another list. Who is he planning to charge again?

Rich

January 16th, 2012
8:19 pm

Wow, @BRW, goons??? Real constructive. Wonder who your supporting….

Sonny LIED!

January 16th, 2012
8:23 pm

We (Galloway knows who we are)got rid of Reed last time, and hell NO we aint fergot. (sic)

BRW

January 16th, 2012
8:27 pm

Don’t hurt yourself too much trying to figure it out Rich…. Yes, goons…… Now say something nasty about YOUR PRESIDENT.

Jackie

January 16th, 2012
8:55 pm

I would not say something nasty about the president but I certainly don’t think he has done a good job. In fact I think he is a failure on a scale unseen since Jimmy Carter was president. Obama has spent an astonishing amount of money, polarized the country, jammed an unwanted health care program down our throats and embarassed America abroad. It’s not nasty to say he has failed but he has most cetainly done that.

GodHatesTrash, p.b.u.h.

January 16th, 2012
8:55 pm

They had big tent because it’s a big circus. Circus Jerkus. Lots and lots of kkklowns.

GodHatesTrash, p.b.u.h.

January 16th, 2012
8:58 pm

Romney thinks King was a great man!

Well, that’s mighty white of Master Mitt!

Old Hippie

January 16th, 2012
8:59 pm

Rich, I agree that “goons” is inappropriate – idiots, smucks, wingnuts, crackpots, evildoers, wingnuts, radical reactionaries, etc is a better fit. These guys don’t have the cohones to be goons.

Auntie Christ

January 16th, 2012
9:03 pm

“Faith & Freedom Coalition?” Really? Put these christian taliban in charge and you’ll have no more freedom than you would under muslim taliban.
“With a few loud – perhaps accidental — bars of “Money, Money, Money,” the revival opened with a video address from Donald Trump,” Really? Aren’t these the people Jesus threw out of the temple? Didn’t he warn us about the evils of mammon, that you cannot serve God and mammon? It should be clear who ralph reed’s cronies and those under this revival tent serve, and it ain’t Jesus Christ.
Christ has vomited by now listening to this war-mongering, mammon worshiping, bunch of haters trying to out-jesus one another with their sanctimony, using his name to justify denying health care to the poor, bombing other human beings, and reveling in their prowess to turn people out of a job and their homes.
What is risible is their constant wailing and bewilderment as to why ‘christians’ are so despised.

Centrist

January 16th, 2012
9:04 pm

Hard to post tonight – filters are working overtime.

Centrist

January 16th, 2012
9:07 pm

Gingrich’s statement (filters won’t allow it to be posted) needing a candidate who is far enough to the right is nonsensical since the election will turn on winning the middle. If the conservatives stay home – they simply get 4 more years of policies they detest.

Robert

January 16th, 2012
9:14 pm

Ralph Reed, at it again suckering people under the guise of religion so his organisations can make money.

VicVixvi

January 16th, 2012
11:57 pm

These must have been the same group that boo’d the Golden Rule tonight.

Best tweet of the night,

SCDebate crowd booed Mexicans, peace, theGoldenRule and not urinating on dead Muslims!? Remind me never to go to SC! I mean, Really!?

liberalefty

January 17th, 2012
12:15 am

did they burn a cross?

patrick r. cleburne

January 17th, 2012
12:19 am

Ralph Reed doesn’t pray, he preys…on ignorance. A direct Reed quote:

“I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don’t know it’s over until you’re in a body bag.”

Anyone who believes anything that comes out of this man’s mouth indicates a significant knowledge deficit…easy prey for morally corrupt bottom feeders.

charlenevsmith

January 17th, 2012
1:00 am

As the price of solar and wind technology continues to drop to more affordable levels, and as energy-efficient buildings become more popular, “green” industries will grow even more rapidly in the future hence more get a degree from High Speed Universities for your

Tea Party members give perspective on…

January 17th, 2012
4:59 am

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Tad Jackson

January 17th, 2012
5:55 am

So regardless of whether the wider culture calls for acrobats to garb themselves in formal dress or for performers to break-dance to hip-hop beats, people will still come to see risible clowns, incredible animals, and daring performers because the circus remains the only place in Georgia, and the world, where all of these things come together with such thrilling and happy results.

—The Big Tent: The Traveling Circus in Georgia, by Gregory J. Renoff

http://www.adixiediary.com

Buckhead Boy

January 17th, 2012
5:58 am

This many pirates haven’t been seen on the coast of South Carolina since the 17th Century.

Attack Dog

January 17th, 2012
6:06 am

Why should Liberals say anything “nasty” about the current President? They worn themselves out on the last one, even though most of what they said about that one was true. Besides, the Dixiecrat do enough to last at least three generations.

Attack Dog

January 17th, 2012
6:10 am

Just think, the policies that Dixiecrats detest have very little to do with keeping this country on a positive economic, domestic and international track.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

DeborahinAthens

January 17th, 2012
6:46 am

Ralph Reed comes slithering his way back into politics, manipulating and weaseling his nose into our government. Why didn’t he go to jail the last go round? Why isn’t there some way to prevent people like him reentering the lobbyist arena like there is for hedge fund managers and stockbrokers? Don’t lobbyists have to have licenses? Without the religious right soaking up the snake oil this POS spews out, we wouldn’t be in such a bad place right now,IMO.

zeke

January 17th, 2012
6:53 am

love newt’s phrasing of obama as foodstamp prez….whose policies/administration led to the biggest recession since depression? if mccain won, he’d be biggest foodstamp prez unless he did not care about the masses who lost jobs, homes and equity….republican blow

findog

January 17th, 2012
7:29 am

Centrist, I’m sorry that you were filtered – free speech should reign

FINALLY – a republican candidate who is honest about taxes: Ron Paul proposes 0% tax bracket for the 1%; but at least he doesn’t want to do that and increase defense spending

And any Newt or Santorum fan please answer this: President Reagan was run out of the Middle East after the Marine Barracks bombing; how is that a projection of strength?

patrick r. cleburne

January 17th, 2012
7:52 am

@ DeborahinAthens

“Why didn’t he go to jail the last go round?”

The answer is Karl Christian Rove, a self professed atheist; “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”

Karl saw the value of Reed as a trojan horse who could easily penetrate and manipulate the religious
right, and pulled the strings necessary to keep him out of jail.

George Hills

January 17th, 2012
8:03 am

Mr. Reed is not the issue today. It should be: trade deficits started under President Reagan and supported by Mr. Gingrich & his globalist cronies have virtually bankrupted America costing millions of jobs.

findog

January 17th, 2012
8:14 am

George, only union jobs so it is ok

[...] for GOP primaryExaminer.comRomney Doubles Down on ImmigrationFox NewsLos Angeles Times -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Washington Postall 3,627 news [...]

honested

January 17th, 2012
8:18 am

What a selection of oxymorons…

I don’t know what is better, ‘republican leadership’ or ‘Myrtle Beach Convention Center’.

Teddy Roosevelt

January 17th, 2012
8:19 am

I would say something nasty about him, but his record speaks for itself.

findog

January 17th, 2012
8:21 am

I know it’s early by why hasn’t anyone come out to play?

QUESTIONS:
Why would anyone vote for Mitt when he says he may release his tax returns in April, after he is the presumptive nominee?
Why won’t Mitt release them now if there is nothing in them?
Who could believe a dedicated flip flopper that he will release them in April?

honested

January 17th, 2012
8:22 am

donald trump is a few years late…

The world WAS laughing at what passed for American Leadership from 2001-2008.

They’re not laughing any more.

honested

January 17th, 2012
8:24 am

If reed put this on, why didn’t abramoff speak?

Gnarly Erik

January 17th, 2012
8:44 am

Ralph Reed revival? Next thing you know Jack Abramoff will be flying the whole bunch off to Scotland for golf and to talk about casino concessions for the tribes. Too bad Tom Delay isn’t around to enjoy all this, but who knows? The way things are going he could end up being Newt or Mitt’s vice presidential nominee.

Shine

January 17th, 2012
8:45 am

Ralphey Reed???—gag!! Only the hopelessly stupid can not see that big phony for what he is.

michael g.

January 17th, 2012
9:17 am

To bring up an old Clinton phrase, “are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?” Most would answer no, and that’s why the sitting President loses in November. Everything else is pandering and hot air.

jconservative

January 17th, 2012
9:27 am

“Come Election Day in November, his (Reed’s) group plans to contact 27 million like-minded voters seven to 12 times.”

This is not a very impressive number to me. In 2008 129 million people voted for Obama or McCain.

And if the majority of the 27 million are in the southern tier of states Obama is going to lose anyway, what has been accompolished? Fundraising?

Three Jack

January 17th, 2012
10:29 am

Just what the GOP needs, Ralphie Reed leading a revival of the Christian Coalition. These folks are killing any chance of seeing a true fiscal conservative being elected. They care about only one thing, saving embryos (maybe two things, embryos and making sure homosexuals never attain recognition as normal citizens).

Ralph is a hypocrite seeking only to enrich himself and these morons flock back to him, credit cards at the ready. As Ron White says, you just can’t fix stupid!

Ben The Independent

January 17th, 2012
10:30 am

I see you start off with a slur about “Tent Revival”. You secular progressives have problems with any thing Christian. Don’t be afraid, we Christians will not hurt you.

Rafe Hollister

January 17th, 2012
10:34 am

I wish we got this kind of OBJECTIVE analysis, when Galloway analyzed the record of our Blamer in Chief.

MissMollie

January 17th, 2012
8:59 pm

Sanitorum and Perry are fading….Romney will win in S.C and Fla. He is the only candidate that will stand toe-to-toe with the incumbent. I can’t believe I supported Ralph Reed. I can’t believe some of the evangelicals are supporting Newt. His secrets are no secret. Newt is enjoying spending the $3M plus wind-fall given him by a casino owner/gambler. He has hit the panic button and is causing controversay where ever he goes. Paul is a RINO, a liberatarian and too old.

MissMollie

January 17th, 2012
9:02 pm

Santorum and Perry are both fading…

liberalefty

January 18th, 2012
1:25 am