Pawlenty leads in informal poll of evangelical leaders

June 23, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the top
Republican pick of evangelical leaders, according to an informal survey,
with 45 percent saying he would be their choice for GOP nominee in the
2012 election.

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of
Evangelicals, which conducted the survey, said the results weren't
surprising since Pawlenty "is so often identified as an evangelical."

But Anderson, Pawlenty's longtime pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden
Prairie, Minn., noted that the outcome of the larger evangelical vote
remains uncertain.

"Like the rest of the nation, there are still many undecided," he
said. "With more than a year before the national nominating conventions,
a lot can change."

The NAE board, which has about 100 members, was asked an open-ended
question in its monthly poll: "Assuming Barack Obama is the Democratic
candidate, if you were to choose a preferred Republican presidential
candidate for 2012, who would you name?"

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in second, at 14 percent,
and 22 percent were undecided. NAE spokeswoman Sarah Kropp said other
names mentioned were not statistically significant.

"Tim and Mary (Pawlenty) are devoted followers of Jesus, bright,
articulate, a proven record and have none of the negatives of the other
candidates," said George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies
of God, a Pentecostal denomination that is a member of the NAE.

Four years ago, NAE board members chose former Arkansas Gov. Mike
Huckabee as the winner of a survey that included both Democratic and
Republican candidates.