Ahead of his group’s annual Values Voter Summit, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins — one the most prominent public supporters of Todd Akin — said he’s in regular contact with Mitt Romney and his presidential campaign, and lauded Romney’s new focus on what he called “issues of faith.”
“He’s starting to feel more confident about those issues,” Perkins said of Romney during a bloggers briefing Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation. “There’s been a hesitancy because there are theological differences between us evangelicals and the Mormon faith. And you can’t blur that line. And in my discussion with him, I said you can’t blur that line.”
The Democratic National Convention’s public kerfuffle over the inclusion of the word “God” in the party platform gave Romney an opportunity to draw contrasts over faith, an issue on which he has renewed focus. Post-DNC Romney events have included a promise by Romney to keep “in God we trust” on U.S. currency, and an appearance by evangelical firebrand Pat Robertson.
Perkins said he talked with Team Romney about how best to leverage Democrats’ chaotic floor vote in Charlotte that added “God” to the platform, and support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reportedly at the urging of President Obama.
“I was talking to the campaign last week and I think they saw that what the Democrats did was a huge, huge mistake in failing to acknowledge God,” he said. Perkins joked about the fact that it took three votes for the amendments to pass: “I can recall another time in history when someone denied God three times.”
Perkins said he was encouraged by Romney’s newfound focus on social issues, because “Republicans are not going to connect with voters just on based on the mechanics of how to get the economy moving.”
He welcomed Romney’s adoption of Rick Santorum’s view that promoting heterosexual marriage will help fix the economy.
“He’s not consistently done that, but he has made the case as to why the core family structure — a mom and a dad and kids — are important, and the fact that if you have a child out of wedlock you’re most probably on a pathway to poverty,” he said. “And if you want to prevent it, graduate from high school first and get married to your spouse before you get pregnant.”
Perkins said his conversations with Romney and the campaign happen fairly regularly.
“I talked to Mitt Romney after he selected Paul Ryan,” Perkins said. “I was somewhat surprised that he chose Paul Ryan because that was a pretty bold choice, in my view.”
Ryan is scheduled to address the Values Voter Summit Friday (Ryan was scheduled before he was picked as Romney’s running mate), setting up a potentially awkward situation in which a member of the Republican Party ticket addresses the voters who are actively helping Akin win the Missouri Senate race. Ryan, Romney and most of the establishment GOP have urged Akin to drop out after his “legitimate rape” comments.
Perkins and the FRC have stood by Akin and promised to help him win. Perkins lashed out at the Republican Party for shunning Akin, and said if Akin loses in Missouri the defeat will be on the hands of the GOP.
“Because he misspoke, I’m not going to back away from him. If that’s the standard we’re now going to uphold, I doubt there’s public official anywhere that’s going to have any long-term support because given time they’re going to say something,” Perkins said. “I think that if he goes into October and he is ahead or tied with [Sen. Claire McCaskill] and the Republican establish stays out, I think they will bear the responsibility for losing that seat.”