Presidential hopefuls, entrepreneurs mob Faith and Freedom Coalition conference
June 3rd, 2011
03:26 PM ET
10 years ago

Presidential hopefuls, entrepreneurs mob Faith and Freedom Coalition conference

Washington (CNN) - Someone pushed a baseball and a ballpoint pen at Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, through the scrum of reporters' note pads and tape recorders as she was chased up an escalator.

Her heels clicked as her staff hustled her out of the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference at the glitzy Renaissance hotel in Washington, DC.

Bachmann didn't look fazed as reporters pressed in and ran along side her on the stairs. When she got to the top of the floor, she grinned as wide as always and paused to field a few questions.

"Is there a national question?" she wondered aloud.

"Can someone win the nomination the way Sarah Palin is running now or do they need to be here at events like this?" a reporter asked.

"Someone will win the nomination...but the main competitor here is Barack Obama," the congresswoman responded. She too has been mulling a run for the White House like many of the other speakers on the conference's line up.

The conference is the brain child of Ralph Reed, a political operative known as the evangelical whisperer for his ability to rally support among Christians for candidates.

Reed stood back stage smiling and chatting with VIPs as one speaker after another took the podium.

"I'm a preacher. You're a politician!" one man loudly laughed and slapped Reed on the shoulder.

There are a thousand or so registered attendees here at the two day conference, organizers said.

The attendees are influential for their ability to open up their check books and activate to get behind a candidate and do the hard work behind the scenes –making phone calls, stuffing envelopes and pushing their friends to support a candidate.

Look no further for evidence of their influence then the long list of Republican presidential nominee hopefuls. They are almost all here.

Jon Huntsman took the podium shortly before lunch. Reed said in his introduction the former Ambassador to China under President Barack Obama was fluent in Mandarin but promised to speak in English. Huntsman took to the podium and started speaking his remarks in Chinese to loud chuckles.

He burnished his resume before the crowd, reminding them of all the pro-life legislation he had signed as Governor of Utah. He told them about his adopted daughter and how when asked who rescued her when she was an orphan she answered, "Jesus." He also listed his fiscal conservative bona fides. At the end of his speech, the crowd rose to their feet and cheered.

It is equally interesting what Huntsman did not mention. The only veiled reference he made to his last boss, President Obama, was, "I lived overseas four times. Don't worry I have a U.S. birth certificate." He also did not mention his faith directly. Huntsman is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon church.

Brian Brahorich came to the conference from Georgia where he attends Georgia Southern University and is a member of the Georgia College Republicans. As a Baptist he said his faith teaches him Mormonism is a cult but he said that won't influence his vote. He said he was looking forward to hearing both Mitt Romney and Huntsman address the conference.

"Just because someone's faith is different or skin color or ethnicity doesn't mean they can't do the job well and they should take the blame for it or be criticized for it," he said. "Whoever is on that ballot besides Barack Obama is going to have my vote."

"I don't think their religion should even come into question," Elliott Echols said. He heads the state chairmen of the Georgia association of College Republicans and is a conservative Christian. "I don't know much about the Mormon religion. I've heard a lot about some of the practices out in Utah, but I don't know if Romney has the same. I know he has one wife. Whether the rumors are or aren't true I think Romney's record speaks for itself. I have no problem with it."

The Mormon church's official position has long been against polygamy, but misconceptions about the church could plague candidates Huntsman and Romney.

But Romney and Huntsman still remain popular here.

Autograph hunters said a signed Romney photo was the prize of the day. It will fly off the shelves on eBay at $100 a pop they say.

The hunters are waiting on the outside of the press scrums. As Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi exits stage left, he chats with the press, then they pounce with a half dozen photos glossy Barbour photos, a polite smile and felt tipped pen.

These aren't Republican fan boys, though they are in suits and red ties. They are strictly entrepreneurs.

Bachmann did end up signing a few baseballs which they said will fetch $75 today.

"It's pure Americana. Presidents always throw out the first pitch. If she wins the presidency that ball will be worth $700," said one young hunter who didn't want to give his name because he didn't want others to cramp his market share.

It's a common theme here, try to be, see, or hook in to the next would be Republican nominee. Any way you shake it, today the road to the Republican nomination goes through Washington, DC and Ralph Reed.

Filed under: 2012 • Jon Huntsman • Michele Bachmann • Mitt Romney
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    The Republican Inquisition in action.

    June 3, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. Paul1st

    Interesting contrast – The Christian conservatives embracing Mormons whom they consider members of a cult are the same Christian conservatives who, to this day, consider our Christian President to be a Muslim. Beauty truly is in the eye and not the mind of the beholder.

    June 3, 2011 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. ja

    this whole gop thing is like a freak show of sorts, pipe down boys and giirls, you got trump, palin, cain, palwenty, the list is infinite, that money they are self glorifying themselves with can go to a charitiable cause, palin is collecting footage for a reality show

    June 3, 2011 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Philojazz

    Here's a quick and easy filter to help you decide who to vote for as President: If the person attended this "Faith and Freedom Coalition" conference, do NOT vote for them. Simple, efficient, and eminently wise voting heuristic for the intelligent ones out there. There are plenty of excellent candidates remaining for you to choose from. Good luck to us all.

    June 3, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  5. gandoman

    Mein Gott ... as the republican NAZI party would utter ...
    Look at our choices .....

    Sarah Palin ..... Has anyone ever noticed that from the moment John 'Maverick my Ass' McCain introduced Palinitis to the world, she has not once, never even come close to having an original idea. After 2+ years of listening to her defend yourself, she appears less likely to be a political candidate & much more likely to be the defendant in a murder by stupid case.
    What about Mitt?
    1. Good face, which is important in a country of fake this & plastic that.
    2. Well known ..... unfortunately he is more well known as a pretty face.
    3. He got it right once on health care, so there is potential.
    My God, it's Newt Gingrich .....
    Personally, whether you are a republican or Democrat, I cannot believe you find this man in any way fit to run for office.
    A small core of extreme rightists actually believe NastyNewty is capable of some genius, some honesty, some moral rectitude. It is easy to forgive & forget when your religion allows you to be a scumbag over & over again. "I'm sorry Lord for the 10th time.!"
    Of course, NastyNewty Gangrenerich (He is an infection) isn't the only politician to succumb to his desires, however, to believe that he has changed for the better is to believe that..... Sirhan Sirhan thought the gun was unloaded; Ted Bundy was an interesting date; The Green River serial killer was an environmentalist
    Truly, ALL candidates representing the republican NAZI party, is quite honestly; 'scraping the bottom of the barrel', 'rinsing out your old dirty linen', 'bringing the garbage back into the house', 'wiping your butt with used toilet paper'.
    The good news is ..... they cannot win.

    June 3, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  6. kzq1n0

    Freak show is correct – Faith & Freedom Coalition – what the blank is that?

    June 3, 2011 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. JT

    The real purpose of this homage is for each candidate to prove they hate all the right people just as this voting block does and that you will promise to further the American Taliban agenda and work towards their version of a theocracy.

    June 3, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    And this gaggle of fine upstanding Krischun Nashun ne'er-do-wells cheered when Batsh-t Bachman swore to god almighty that she would not rest until the ACA was repealed so that insurance companies could go back to denying pre-existing conditions and wouldn't have to cover your college aged children...and cheered wildly for the GOP's CouponCare Crapshoot. Jesus would be so proud.

    June 3, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Gotta love the conservative hive-mind...

    Assimilate, assimilate
    We'll show you where to point your hate

    June 3, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. juliei4

    So where are the liberal speakers that agree with Faith and Freedom? I could go and speak to them about both as could many liberals.

    June 3, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  11. Jake

    just like a good ol' tent revival! gross.

    June 3, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  12. Rachel

    What a pathetic scene. Republicans flocking to a conference put on by a crook and a con man. Only in the republican party would a sleazeball like Reed again take the throne as crowning master. It's absolutely pathetic – but it appears that the rubes are still biting so why not keep going...

    June 3, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |