Why Social Conservatives Met With Rick Perry Last Weekend

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Back in May and before Rick Perry was considering a presidential run, a group of social conservative leaders approached the Lone Star governor. “One of our people wanted to take a look at him,” says Rapid City, S.D., furniture-store owner and conservative organizer Bob Fischer. “Perry became anxious to meet with us, the conservatives of faith.” That meeting launched a 90-day process where Perry explored  his options and, ultimately, launched a White House bid.

Last weekend, these same social conservatives organized a larger gathering in Fredricksburg, Texas. Fischer helped call together some 300 conservative faith voices for the first of what’s expected to be a series of events put on by Fischer’s team. Invitees from across the country included former Focus on the Family head James Dobson, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, and American Values President Gary Bauer. (Bauer had to cancel at the last minute because of Hurricane Irene.) Catholic and Jewish leaders, as well as some business big wigs, also came to see where Perry stands on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and national spending. Fischer says the group will consider meetings with any candidate who asks, and several such gatherings are already in the works. “We felt that the best way to do this was in a group setting,” says Fischer. “I’m hoping we can stay together through this process.”

Organizers say the goal of their meetings is not to endorse any one. Instead they aim to familiarize conservative faith leaders with candidates’ positions.  But if there’s support to be had, Perry may have particular appeal among the Christian and Jewish conservatives in this group. He called last weekend’s gathering, held at long-time supporter James Leininger’s home, a “solemn assembly,” referring to an Old Testament passage from the book of Joel. The phrase refers to a time when a prophet gathered Israelites before God, who promised to make up for years of locusts by giving them grain, wine and oil. For conservatives feeling undercut during the Obama years, this call for renewal likely sounds more than attractive.