-By Peter H. Stone
August 7, 2012- A conservative group led by longtime political activist Ralph Reed has budgeted $10 million for a major 2012 election push to turn out the religious right and block a second term for President Barack Obama, a top executive with his organization told the Huffington Post.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition's effort, which will include voter registration drives at NASCAR races in Florida, Virginia and other key swing states, is part of a much broader attempt to reactivate millions of socially conservative voters to not only defeat Obama but help some favorite conservative congressional candidates.
Concerned Women for America, a Christian advocacy group, already has run $6 million in ads in six battleground states including New Hampshire and Wisconsin, warning that the White House-backed health care law might limit patient care and increase the federal deficit.
The Pennsylvania-based Let Freedom Ring quietly cobbled together a nonpartisan 2,000-member pastor network to spur voter registration efforts and is planning a multi-million dollar ad drive this fall focused on social, economic and foreign policy issues, according to Colin Hanna, president of the organization.
Propping up this trio of right-leaning organizations are several of the country’s wealthiest conservatives. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus and John Templeton Jr., who runs a family foundation, are offering financial support, as are organization that receive funding from the billionaire Koch brothers, according to two GOP fundraisers familiar with the separate operations of the three groups.
The ramped-up involvement of these groups is the clearest sign to date that cultural debates long thought to be a side topic in the 2012 election, may still play a role. The Faith and Freedom Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Let Freedom Ring and other allies plan to focus heavily on a few hot-button social and economic issues, including the president's support for same-sex marriage, to fire up their base.
Conservative leaders note that evangelical voters, who historically made up as much as 25 percent of the overall electorate, can be especially important in determining the next president in swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.