FORT LAUDERDALE – A push by Florida-based evangelical voters to mobilize unregistered voters could provide the push needed to deliver Florida’s 29 electoral votes to the Republican presidential nominee— whomever that individual proves to be.
At a meeting last week at Fort Lauderdale mega-church Calvary Chapel, John Stemberger, president of the Orlando-based Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC), told nearly 200 assembled volunteers, “We’re organizing Florida to take back America.”
The volunteers were mobilized to recruit thousands of local Christians who haven’t registered to vote in an effort to create an evangelical voting bloc that will deliver the Sunshine State to the GOP in November. In 2008, Barack Obama won Florida’s 27 electoral votes. (Under the U.S. Constitution, the increase to the state’s population under the 2010 U.S. Census resulted in an addition of two congressional seats and two electoral votes.)
“What you do or don’t do in the next seven months could mean the difference in who is running the free world. It’s that serious,” emphasized Stemberger, whose organization is affiliated with the conservative Family Research Council (FRC).
“We live in a complacent nation, and that affects everybody,” noted Scott Spages, an official of Faith Forum, which draws its members from Calvary Chapel’s Broward and Palm Beach County campuses. “And there is a tendency among the faithful that God is directing things, when, in fact, He specifically calls on us to be involved in the governance of our land. And that’s often confused by the faithful,” he told the Sun Sentinel.
According to FRC data, in 2008, Florida was home to 668,890 conservative Christians who didn’t vote because they weren’t registered. Obama won the state by 236,450.
“With a fraction of that, we can win Florida,” Stemberger said at Calvary Chapel. “These are people who would vote the right way if they were registered.” For Stemberger, the Florida Republican Party’s former political director, “the right way” means stopping the Democratic Obama, from being reelected.
Critics, including LGBT rights activists, say that fractures within the Republican coalition may make it difficult for the party to win with or without an energized base of heretofore unregistered voters. They also point to the likelihood of Mitt Romney’s presumptive nomination, and the potential the former Massachusetts governor’s Mormon faith has to turn off potential Christian evangelical and fundamentalist voters, many of whom do not view the Latter Day Saint (Mormon) religion as truly Christian as they understand the term.
To the concerns of these latter day “doubting Thomases,” Stemberger has a reply. “You may not like the [GOP] nominee,” he told one group of volunteers. “We have got to think clearly about this. We can’t be purists. If we’re purists, strategically we’re done. And so we have to understand the stakes are high. The world is at stake.”