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Perry: Turn To God For Answers To Nation’s Woes

HOUSTON (AP) – Gov. Rick Perry sent a strong message to the nation’s evangelicals Saturday: he is a member of the important constituency for Republicans that he soon may call upon to help him secure the GOP presidential nomination.

The state’s longest serving governor hosted what he called a national day of prayer, an event at Reliant Arena that drew roughly 30,000 people and that was broadcast on cable Christian channels and the Internet nationwide, including in at least 1,000 churches.

“Father, our heart breaks for America,” Perry said in 12 minutes of remarks that included prayer and Bible passages — but no direct mention of politics or his presidential plans. “We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government and, as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us.”

He asked Christians to turn to God for answers to the nation’s troubles, and asked the audience to pray for President Barack Obama — though he did not use the Democratic incumbent’s name — as well as for the American troops killed in the weekend attack on a U.S. helicopter in Afghanistan.

The moment gave Perry a national spotlight before a pivotal voting group in the GOP nomination fight — in the early voting states of Iowa and South Carolina in particular — as he nears a decision on whether to run for president. His entrance into the field could shake up the contest because Perry could attract both social and economic conservatives at a time when the GOP electorate is unsettled with the current slate of candidates. Many have been campaigning for months and are trying to break out of the pack.

As Perry held court in Houston, for instance, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann were holding multiple campaign events each day in Iowa ahead of next weekend’s test vote, a straw poll that is a barometer for a campaign’s organizational strength five months before the state’s leadoff caucuses. Both have a lot riding on the outcome.

Perry has been talking with potential donors, GOP operatives and party leaders about a possible run. But he has been tightlipped about just when he would announce a decision, though he plans to visit at least one early-voting state — South Carolina — over the next week.

He plans to keep what aides say is a long-held commitment to headline a conservative conference in Charleston, S.C., on Aug. 13, as well as meet with activists in the state scheduled to host the South’s first primary. The trip will put Perry in touch with voters and activists who would be influential to a Republican primary campaign, much like the Houston event Saturday did.

Ministers long have been a valuable constituency in the early nominating campaign, especially in Iowa, where they formed an influential network for 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee’s caucus victory, and this year’s candidates are trying to make inroads. Bachmann, for one, announced the endorsement of her by 100 Iowa clergy Friday; the tea party favorite meets regularly with pastors when she campaigns in Iowa.

Perry’s audience Saturday was filled with people who sang with arms outstretched in prayer — and wept — as Christian groups played music on stage. And Perry, himself, huddled on the stage in a prayer circle with several ministers who helped lead the event. It was Perry’s idea and was financed by the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss.-based group that opposes abortion and gay rights and believes that the First Amendment freedom of religion applies only to Christians.

“We feel that God moved on him to do this. It will be read by the enemy, the political enemy, as a tool to win votes,” said Gwen Courkamp of Houston, who plans to vote for Perry if he runs for president.

The governor also earned high marks from attendee Justine Schaefer, who said: “He’d get my vote … Today really impressed me. He showed that he’s sensitive to the Lord’s leading to have this.”

Critics argued the event — called The Response — inappropriately blended politics and religion.

Perry insisted that the event had no political motivation, though he did say during his remarks: “We pray for our nation’s leaders, Lord, for parents, for pastors, for the generals, for governors, that you would inspire them in these difficult times.”

The other speakers focused primarily on prayer and redemption, though politics seeped in at times, tied to social issue policy. Dozens of people throughout the daylong event decried legalized abortion, while some also condemned gay marriage, although far fewer.

Protesters gathered outside the arena to condemn the event.

“The brand of Christianity being offered today is one of fear, and we want to let people know that God loves everyone, not to be afraid,” said Dan DeLeon, a pastor from the United Church of Christ in College Station, who wore his robe in near-100-degree heat.

Rodney Hinds, who drove to Houston from Amarillo, waved a sign at traffic demanding “Pastor Perry Must Resign” and said: “He abused the power of his office by calling this event from his office as governor.”

Whether that’s true or not, this much is clear: Perry may have laid down a marker on Saturday with social conservatives that would allow him to enter the race as a candidate focused on jobs, but with credibility with values voters.

“He has the best record in the field on jobs, and doesn’t have to get off message beefing up bona fides on social issues, since they are firmly established,” said Mary Matalin, a former adviser during both Bush presidencies.

Given Texas’ recent uptick in jobs, that combination could make Perry a potentially strong challenger to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who leads in national polls, has business credentials but leaves cultural conservatives questioning his sincerity on their issues.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • NiteNurse

    I got news for you Ricky all that praying ain’t helping because only hard work and honest moral people need to run this country not a bunch of hypocritical right wing christians. AND you know what??? You don’t have to be saved to be moral and honest! Stop praying and get to work ya’ll!!!

    • Carrie Bennett

      And while working let’s not forget to pray for NiteNurse

  • http://dallasforme.com/2011/08/perry-turn-to-god-for-answers-to-nations-woes/ Perry: Turn To God For Answers To Nation?s Woes — Me and the Chicks

    […] conservatives, an important constituency should the Republican seek the GOP presidential nomination. More from: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/0… PreviousPost […]

  • Tolerant Christian

    AMEN Night Nurse, We already know what the religious right wing has in store for this great nation. Just watch the news. Where’s the rain Rick? Where is the rain?

  • Praying

    I will be praying for all those on here that need it. You can never fall too far from the grace of God. Love y’all and God bless the USA

    • NiteNurse

      You need to quit praying and get to work Honey because that’s the only thing that gonna save this country is a bunch of hardworking folks! If there is a god he doesn’t want you to waste your time on your knees he wants you to provide for your self and your family.

    • Dave

      Your “god” is as impotent as Rick Perry.

  • REM

    What a hypocrit. Hey all you evangelicals that make less than $100,000 a year, he’s using you. He wants to be President and he wants your vote. His policies have been anything but Christian since he took office. He has taken from the poor to given to the rich. Perry is the prophet of greed and “what have you done for me lately”. The guy couldn’t even pass organic chemistry, so you know he’s just a puppet with greedy rich guys pulling his strings. Wake up and smell the cow pies.

  • http://fortworthinsight.com/news/perry-turn-to-god-for-answers-to-nation%e2%80%99s-woes/ Perry: Turn To God For Answers To Nation’s Woes « Fort Worth News Feeds

    […] Perry: Turn To God For Answers To Nation’s Woes Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked Christians to turn to God for answers to the nation’s troubles as he held court Saturday over a national prayer rally attended by thousands of evangelical conservatives, an important constituency should the Republican seek the GOP presidential nomination. Go to News Source […]

  • TravlnTxn

    I think I just vomited a little bit……. These poor people don’t even realize how they are being used strictly for votes.

  • Dave

    The funny thing is, most of this State’s problems were either created or exacerbated by Perry himself. No amount of “praying” will fix our problems. Voting his worthless but OUT is a good start.

  • Texas Christian

    I honestly think Texas is suffering because of the lies of Perry and because of the corruption of big businesses and government here. Those who make less than $100,000 are being raped and pillaged.

  • Caro

    It will be read by the enemy, the political enemy, as a tool to win votes,” hmm, and of course “the enemy” is us, friends and neighbors

  • Tim

    Perry is going to Hell like most republicans anyway and today sealed it for him.

  • Perrys a fool

    Pray all you want Perry. GOD is not an American entity that will place this nation above all the rest. The economic woes of this nation will not be answered by God. They will only be solved when greed and egos get the Hell out of Washington and Austin.

  • branwren

    Being from Texas, I didn’t like Perry as Governor and can’t see me liking him as President. Same with Ron Paul. Religion is the crutch that those who have no self confidence use. I’m not even going to go into that the Bible speaks against public prayer. Hypocrites..all of ’em. I used to be Republican, until they started down this holier than thou road. I’m still conservative, but I’ll never put a Republican in office on purpose. You want more votes? Get off the religious platform.

  • Rod

    Hey ricky,leave those things to God that are God’s,and those things to man that are man’s.

  • Rod

    Hate to say this, but I pray perry runs for president so we can get him out of here,and of course he would lose the nomination.

  • Rick McDaniel

    That’s all well and good, but………in the end, it is up to humans to solve their problems, themselves……if they can.

  • http://dallasforme.com/2011/08/perry-turn-to-god-for-answers-to-nations-woes-44/ Perry: Turn To God For Answers To Nation?s Woes — Me and the Chicks

    […] conservatives, an important constituency should the Republican seek the GOP presidential nomination. More from: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/0… […]

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