Religion, politics converge in Philly, though briefly

First came Mitt Romney, though he met privately with Philadelphia’s big-money conservative supporters at the Union League early Friday in hopes of raising a couple million dollars for the home stretch of the presidential campaign.

Then came thousands of Christian conservatives, who met very much in public: taking over most of the Independence Mall starting Friday afternoon through Saturday.

Both causes made rare appearances in the heart of a liberal city. For Romney, it was his first appearance in all of Pennsylvania in the last six weeks. As the state’s leading pollster, Terry Madonna of Franklin & Marshall College, put it, “I joke and say we’re the surrogate king.”

“We got [Mitt’s son] Josh Romney last week. We’re getting another son this week. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is appearing for the Ds,” said Madonna, whose most recent Keystone poll showed Obama with a solid 11-point lead. “We got 40 visits between Labor Day and the election in 2008 from Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin.

Interestingly, another conservative interest group, “America for Jesus 2012,” a conservative Christian rally organized by religious coalition One Nation Under God, gathered an estimated 8,000 people on Independence Mall.

The massive prayer fest, which was convened to address the country’s “spiritual drift,” didn’t endorse a party or candidate, but rather called for a nationwide movement rooted in “Bible-based righteousness” over partisan politics, according to a release from the organizers.

“As you gather in this historic place, which gave birth to our nation’s Declaration of Independence, may your presence give birth to a new declaration for our nation, a declaration of dependence upon almighty God,” Rev. Billy Graham said in a statement read during the two-day event. Pat Robertson of the 700 Club said the nation’s destiny will be decided in the church house, not in the White House. “We will never change America through politics,” he said. “We will only change America through a mighty outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.”

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