TAMPA---Some evangelical activists are concerned that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been neglecting the Christian evangelical community, which they say will be a big problem for him this fall as he tries to generate as much support as he can from the GOP's conservative base.
Romney now runs the risk of "screwing this up," a prominent evangelical activist told me Monday.
The evangelical concern is being reinforced because Romney seems to be far more interested in wooing Catholics than Christian conservatives, who have been a strong force in Republican politics for many years. Romney has named a number of high-profile Catholics to speak at the Republican National Convention here this week, including Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who will give the final benediction Thursday night.
Dolan is head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Romney also named Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, another Catholic, as his vice presidential running mate and Ryan will also give a prime-time speech.On Wednesday night, Republican sources said it was possible that Mike Huckabee, the TV commentator, former governor of Arkansas and a Christian conservative, would be given a prime-time speaking slot. If that happened, it would help soothe evangelicals, who might feel that "at least it's not a complete shutout," a long-time evangelical activist told me.
Huckabee had been scheduled to speak on Monday night, but GOP officials cancelled convention events for fear Tropical Storm Isaac might make landfall here.
The evangelical activists whom I spoke with say they don't object to having this many Catholic speakers but they would like to have more evangelicals added to the roster.
There is also some concern among evangelicals because Romney has called on Rep. Todd Akin to withdraw as the Republican nominee for the Senate from Missouri because he said that in cases of "legitimate rape" a woman's body has ways to prevent conception. Akin favors a ban on abortion even in cases of rape, and has been a favorite of evangelicals.
More generally, Christian conservatives also have been skeptical of Romney's Mormon faith, which many don't consider a true Christian religion, so he has never had a real connection to the religious right.
The Romney campaign did not provide an immediate response to a request for comment.