Interest Groups and the 2012 Republican Primary Campaign

During the Republican primary, the candidates focused great efforts on wooing social conservatives and Tea Party activists. 

Social Conservatives

Social conservative activity included:

- Nationally, the annual Values Voter Summit, a major gathering of social conservatives, occurred Oct. 7-9, 2011.  The Summit also marked the launch of "Values Voter Bus Tour."  FRC Action, the lead organization in these efforts, issued a voter guide on Dec. 21, 2011 (PDF).

- The Faith & Freedom Coalition, headed by Ralph Reed, formed in 2009 and is seeking to "mobilize and train people of faith to be effective citizens;" it claimed 58.8 million voter contacts in the 2010 cycle.  The Faith & Freedom Coalition held a Conference and Strategy Briefing in Washington, DC June 3-4, 2011 which drew all the major candidates.  FFC's kickoff event on Sept. 22, 2011 in conjunction with the Presidency 5 event in Orlando, FL drew all the major candidates except Huntsman.  Six candidates spoke at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's forum in Des Moines, IA on Oct. 22, 2011; on Nov. 30, 2011, the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition announced it would not endorse (+).  The South Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition held several events in Myrtle Beach on Jan. 15-16, 2012 in conjuntion with the SC GOP Experience and debate.

- Susan B. Anthony List issued a "Pro-Life Leadership Presidential Pledge" in June 2011, and the National Organization for Marriage issued a pledge in August 2011 (PDF). 

- In Iowa, The FAMiLY LEADER was quite active.  It organized a Presidential Lecture Series starting in February 2011 (+), issued "The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and FAMiLY" in July 2011 (the pledge generated some controversy) (+), and held a candidate forum on Nov. 19, 2011 (+).  However, after weighing an endorsement (+), the group ultimately opted not to endorse (+).  

- Personhood USA issued a candidate pledge on Dec. 14, 2011 (+).

- On Jan. 14, 2012 about 150 religious conservatives met in Brenham, TX and voted to endorse former Sen. Rick Santorum in the Republican primary contest (+).  This was a very significant effort to unify behind an alternative to former Gov. Mitt Romney, but many commentators opined that it came too late.

Tea Party

Tea Party influence has seemed to wane somewhat as the campaign progressed into 2011 and 2012, but most of the candidates sought to attract support of Tea Party activists. 

- The Iowa Tea Party organized a three-week, 20-stop bus tour around the state from June 13-July 2, 2011, which drew several candidates. 

- The Tea Party Express (which is actually the Our Country Deserves Better PAC) co-sponsored a debate with CNN in Tampa on Sept. 12, 2011, and is working on a "Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama." 

- Another group of Tea Party activists had attempted to organize a "Freedom Jamboree & Tea Party National Straw Poll Convention" in Kansas City, KS from Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2011, but they cancelled the event in July due to low registration. 

The lower profile of the Tea Party coincided with the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Both movements have their roots in frustration with the political system, but have different prescriptions and focuses.  Republican candidates were generally quite critical of the Occupy movement, the major exception being longshot candidate former Gov. Buddy Roemer.  Occupy activists have disrupted a few candidate events with "mic checks" and are planning "Occupy the Caucuses" and "Occupy the NH Primary" efforts.

Economic Focus

Groups were also active on the economic side. 

- During the Iowa caucus campaign Strong America Now put together an organizational effort on par with the campaigns as it sought to advance the Lean Six Sigma process to eliminate government waste.

- The Club for Growth issued "white papers" on the presidential candidates. 

- As in past cycles, Americans for Tax Reform circulated a "Taxpayer Protection Pledge." 

- The Peter G. Peterson Foundation launched one of the more creative efforts, a satirical presidential campaign to inject the national debt into the discussion.

Sponsoring Debates, Forums and Events

The FAMiLY Leader Presidential Lecture Series in Iowa.

June 3-4, 2011 - Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference and Strategy Briefing in Washington, DC.

June 13-July 2, 2011 - Iowa Tea Party Bus Tour, partnering with American Principles in Action's Gold Standard in Iowa.

Sept. 12, 2011 - CNN/Tea Party Express Debate in Tampa, FL.

Oct. 27, 2011 - College Board and News Corp. "The Future of American Education: A Presidential Primary Forum" in New York, NY.

Nov. 1, 2011 - National Association of Manufacturers forum in Pella, IA.

Sept. 30, 2011 - Freedom Jamboree in Kansas City, KS.