Evangelical voters would likely accept and enthusiastically support any of the four front-running candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Tuesday evening.
Perkins, an influential leader of social conservatives, suggested that Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), and Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) would each be acceptable to evangelicals.
"I think what's going to happen is that, in the end, you're going to see a much more unified, conservative voting bloc than you did in 2008," he said. "What you're going to see are conservatives rallying to a candidate that will beat and replace Barack Obama in the White House."
There was a sense that in 2008 a number of evangelicals who were unenthused about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as the Republican nominee stayed home. James Dobson, another influential evangelical leader who heads Focus on the Family, had disparaged McCain before reluctantly endorsing the GOP nominee in the late stages of the campaign.
Evangelical Christians and social conservatives have traditionally been an important base of support for Republicans, arguably reaching an apex during the election and reelection of President George W. Bush.
There's no clear candidate to overwhelmingly receive the support of evangelical voters in the Republican primary; Perry makes frequent references to faith on the campaign trail, as does Bachmann, who had long belonged to a conservative Lutheran church. Romney is hoping that concerns about his Mormon faith, which had lingered during his 2008 campaign, have been dispelled among Christian voters during his 2012 effort.
Perkins took particular interest in Perry, though, expressing interest in seeing how the Texas governor performs in a debate setting.
"I think people will wait and see how he does on these debates," he said. "I am certain he will do quite well, having been the longest-serving governor in the country."