On the sidelines of the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., a council official says former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is doing just what the party needs for the 2012 race.
Even though Palin has decided not to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, she is just what the doctor ordered "to energize the party," Tom McCluskey told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
McCluskey, the council's vice president for government affairs, said the former Alaska governor is "stirring up the base," as well as "angering those on the left" with her criticism of the White House.
Palin will have a big impact through her criticism of President Barack Obama's policies, McCluskey said. Palin remains popular across the country, and people listen to what she has to say, he said.
McCluskey also said he is not surprised that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reaffirmed his stance against joining the GOP presidential sweepstakes.
"Christie is good for New Jersey, but I don't see how what he stands for would resonate with voters across the country," McCluskey said.
Christie had said repeatedly that he would not run in 2012, a position he restated this week after temporarily considering running because of pressure from supporters. But this week marked the first time Palin has said she is not a candidate in 2012.
Given the Family Research Council's focus on faith and family values, McCluskey said religion is a factor in the 2012 race, but "it is not the religion of a candidate that is important. It is important how they practice their religion."
He points out, "President Obama and I are both Christians, but I do not support his policies as they pertain to religion." Federal funding for facilities that perform abortions is a particular sticking point for McCluskey and the council in general.
McCluskey emphasizes that while "the economy has dominated the national discussion among the candidates," there are other issues such as family values.
He says it not only matters what a candidate stands for on the issues but is also important what they are as people and how they can motivate Americans through their words and actions.
To that end, McCluskey says he is not surprised by the increasing popularity of Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain.
"Cain had a stirring speech at the summit. He appears to be able to motivate people to action with his impassioned way of speaking," said McCluskey.
McCluskey said this has been the most successful summit ever just by the sheer number of registrants. About 3,100 people registered for the three-day event, which wraps up Sunday.
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