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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Perry about to score Florida endorsement coup with John Stemberger



Florida evangelical leader John Stemberger is a step away from endorsing Rick Perry for president, a big coup for the Texas governor and a loss for fellow Republican Michele Bachmann. Stemberger's likely endorsement follows some top-level Perry staff hires (see below)*

"We really like Michele Bachmann She has stellar credentials when it comes to our issues. She is an amazing woman. Our primary drive is principle and the issues," Stemberger said. "But we also have to be realistic, pragmatically, and determine who’s viable."

Stemberger said that meant he and the Florida Family Policy Council, which has an email list of about 65,000 Florida evangelical voters, had two choices.

"This is a two man race between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. And there’s a growing consensus among evangelical leaders and, to some degree, among those in the tea party and pro-life Catholics that Rick Perry is the most trustworthy candidate on our issues," Stemberger said.

"There are too many trust issues with Mitt Romney," he continued. "The issue not that he is a Mormon. The issue is that he wasn’t Mormon enough. If he had been consistent with traditional Mormon values his whole career, that would make me feel a lot more comfortable about where he’s coming from. Perry is a lot more solid on our issues."

Romney's liability on social issues (Perry's asset) might be geographical. Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, where he also ran for U.S. Senate. So he couldn't be an arch-conservative. Perry was governor of Texas. So he basically had to be an arch-conservative.

"When it comes time to make those decisions, it shows how deep your convictions go. I know Perry didn’t have the opportunity to do that because he’s in a different environment," Stember said.

"Perry is not a perfect candidate. We only had one perfect candidate and we crucified him 2,000 years ago."

Stemberger said he'll officially make up his mind after talking to some of the evangelical leaders who were among the 300 in attendance earlier this summer at the Texas ranch of Jim Leininger (stories here and here). Stemberger was invited but couldn't go because he was in Orlando for a Florida Family Policy Council annual dinner, where the featured speaker was Bachmann.

[Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 8:35pm]


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