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Reed’s Coalition Strikes A Chord

By Erin McPike While the tea party movement may be geared toward voters upset with the Obama administration over fiscal matters, Ralph Reed’s year-old organization, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, is an outlet for conservative voters who care about a range of issues. Reed, the longtime executive director of the Christian Coalition, said his organization is “going gangbusters” as a reaction to Obama. He said the organization has drawn 400,000 activists, 125,000 of whom have donated, and it is adding 1,000 members per day. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” he said in an interview. “We call President Obama the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ around here: He’s causing us to blossom.” Reed said his organization is running in 23 states, and it plans to get involved in races in about 15 states this fall from coast to coast. He knows the midterm elections are turning on fiscal matters, which he calls “the initial animating force” for all of the grassroots activism on the right this year. “This election is about jobs, jobs and jobs,” he said. Nevertheless, Reed’s organization is functioning almost as a clearinghouse for conservative voters looking for an outlet where they can exercise all of their views. As Reed put it, he is fully on board with the tea party focus on fiscal issues, but he also believes the Obama administration is radical on other issues, from ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ to his court nominations, to some specifics of the healthcare bill. And his team has some experience in building coalitions. His national executive director is Gregg Keller, a veteran Missouri-based political operative who served as national coalitions director to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. Keller ran former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent’s 2006 race and has deep ties to conservative leaders in the Show-Me State from his time with Talent, which spanned his senatorial career. But Romney is unlikely to be one of the stars of the organization’s planned Washington debut next month. Featured speakers at the Sept. 9-11 “conference and strategy briefing” include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Reed said former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may attend, and all potential 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls have been invited — but the event is designed as a training session for the midterm races.

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