How do you fit a round peg in a square hole? Especially when the round one is Chris Christie and the square ones are members of the Christian right’s Faith and Freedom Coalition? Well, it’s not easy.
Governor Christie, who’s busy preparing to launch his 2016 presidential bid—despite some annoyances at back at home in New Jersey—paid a visit on Friday to Ralph Reed’s FFC, which is holding its 2014 “Road to Majority” event in Washington this week. Reed, of course, is the boyish-looking, 53-year-old former executive director of the Christian Coalition, brought into that spot by the weirdly offbeat, conspiratorially minded Pat Robertson. Since founding the FFC in 2009, Reed has used it to try to revive the otherwise fairly scattered and moribund Christian right movement, although many activists at the grassroots level consider Reed, Robertson and others to be far too attached to the Republican establishment. Still, since 2009 presidential candidates have trooped to the FFC’s national and statewide events to get Reed’s blessing. And Christie, hardly a favorite of the Christian right, is just the latest to make the pilgrimage. (Last year, Christie skipped the FFC and spoke instead in Chicago at Bill Clinton’s “Conversation on Leadership.”)
Other speakers at the FFC get-together included Christian right favorites such as Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Gary Bauer and Michele Bachmann, and Christie was clearly the odd man out, with plenty of skepticism about his credibility as a social conservative. But Christie, if he runs, will have to reach out to social conservatives, and the organizers of the event gave Christie credit just for showing up. “There’s probably been more agreement than disagreement,” Reed told The Wall Street Journal in advance of Christie’s talk, in a less-than-enthusiastic comment. And Kellyanne Conway, a conservative pollster who also spoke to FFC, told the Journal that the audience viewed Christie with “a mix of appreciation, curiosity and skepticism.” And, said Reed:
He’s the first pro-life governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade. He’s line-item vetoed state funding for Planned Parenthood every year he’s been governor. He vetoed a same-sex marriage bill that the Democratic legislature sent him. And he’s a faithful Catholic. We don’t agree with him on every issue, but we wanted to give him an opportunity to share his story and make his case. I think people may be surprised at the reception he gets.