A group of about 50 religious conservatives led by the odious Family Research Council and its equally odious leader Tony Perkins met in secret to see who they would collectively throw their support behind in the Republican race. They felt that Republicans lost in previous elections because the party’s establishment put forward candidates who were not conservative enough
The initiative, spearheaded by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, had originally brought together a loose coalition of some 50 like-minded conservative leaders from around the country. Together, beginning in early 2014, the group — referred to internally simply as “The GROUP” — met every few months to discuss the state of the race, to pray for guidance, and to conduct a straw poll to see which candidates enjoyed the most support at each stage of the campaign.
It had all built to this day and to this meeting, where members would vote until they reached a verdict. Once finalized, their decision would represent the culmination of an oft-dismissed undertaking that began several years earlier and aimed at one thing: coalescing the conservative movement’s leaders behind a single presidential candidate in a show of strength and solidarity that would position them to defeat the establishment-backed candidate in the head-to-head stage of the 2016 Republican primary.
But it turned out that the 75% supermajority needed for presenting a united front was hard to achieve with neither Ted Cruz nor Marco Rubio making it until the fifth round of voting when finally Cruz got it with Perkins canvassing hard for him.
But these conservative leaders are going to announce their endorsements individually over time to give the impression of a snowball effect in favor of Cruz and to avoid letting on that it was a backroom deal, the kind of thing that is out of favor these days and which Trump would seize upon to disparage.
Three prominent participants — direct-mail pioneer and longtime activist Richard Viguerie, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, and The Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats – announced their support of Cruz within 72 hours of the meeting at the Sheraton.
But this barely scratches the surface. An avalanche of endorsements is forthcoming from conservative leaders, including James Dobson, founder and chairman emeritus of Focus on the Family, Ken Cuccinelli of Senate Conservatives Fund, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, and of course, from Perkins himself.
So it looks like the battle lines are being drawn between Donald Trump (the outsider), Ted Cruz (the religious conservative establishment favorite), and Marco Rubio (the party establishment favorite).