Texas Gov. Rick Perry is undertaking a big political gamble: Namely, "The Response," a mega prayer rally he's been planning for weeks, at which Christians will fast and pray about America's moral decline. On the plus side, the event — unfolding this Saturday at a 71,500-seat Houston arena — could help Perry win over evangelical GOP voters if he seeks his party's presidential nomination. On the down side, the so-called "Day of Prayer" has only sold 8,000 tickets and several organizers hold views on religious freedom and gay rights that might turn off independent voters. Will Perry's mixing of religion and politics hurt his presidential prospects?
Yes. This prayerfest will frighten mainstream voters: The rally's point is to acknowledge that America is problem-ridden because it hasn't honored God enough, says Henry Blodget at Business Insider. In Perry's world, we need to "pray and fast" so God "will forgive us and help us fix the country." That might go over with the Republican Party's evangelical voters in key early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina, but it will "scare the bejeezus out of many ordinary Americans," including the independents Perry would need to actually topple Obama.
"Presidential candidate Rick Perry wants you to stop eating and pray so God will fix the country"
Actually, voters will be impressed by Perry's bold move: "One thing is clear: Rick Perry has guts," says Ron Nehring at Politico. He knows how much heat former Texas Gov. George W. Bush took when he said during his first presidential race that the philosopher who had influenced him most was Jesus Christ. But Perry clearly believes The Response is needed, "and he doesn't particularly care what the High Minded think." That kind of "swagger and authenticity" is just what Republican primary voters want to see.
"Is Rick Perry's day of prayer appropriate?"
But Perry will be tainted by others on the stage: There's nothing unconstitutional about what Perry's doing, says the Wichita Falls, Texas, Times Record News in an editorial. He's not establishing a state religion, or forcing anybody to pray. But he's participating in an event featuring preachers who have indulged in hateful rants about everyone from gays to Catholics to Oprah Winfrey. Praying publicly is fine — Perry's big political problem is "those with whom he's chosen to pray."
"Day of prayer could haunt Gov. Perry"