September 19, 2009 / 10:44 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. conservative Christians target 16 Democrats

* Conservative groups target 16 Democratic seats in 2010

* Conservative Christians assail Obama agenda

* Abortion remains top issue for "Religious Right"

By Ed Stoddard

WASHINGTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Conservative Christians, a key base for the Republican Party, said on Saturday they were targeting 16 Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in the 2010 congressional elections.

Four other Democratic senators and 11 U.S. representatives were on the list, which was released at a summit in Washington of conservative "values voters" who are rallying against President Barack Obama’s agenda.

The mid-term elections will be the first national test for Obama, who has seen his approval ratings fall in recent months as he and his ruling Democratic Party attempted to push through a sweeping overhaul of the healthcare sector.

"We think we have a shot at taking back some seats," said Connie Mackey, president of FRC Action, the legislative or political arm of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby group which organized the summit.

Activists within the "Religious Right," an informal network of evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Mormons, hope to sway voters next year through voter education, advertising, campaign contributions and endorsements of candidates.

The release of the hit list — it also included Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut — was one of the opening shots in a Republican effort to pare some of the huge gains made by Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Speakers at the two-day summit attacked the Obama agenda, particularly healthcare reform, regarded as his top domestic priority.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon who lost the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and is seen as a leading contender for the party’s nomination in 2012, stuck to a common theme:

"The right answer for healthcare is not more government, it’s less government," he said to an estimated 2,000 activists from around the country who attended the summit.

Much of the conservative opposition to Obama’s healthcare drive — it spurred angry protests at town hall meetings last month — has been driven by conservative Christians who claim that it will all lead to federal funding for abortion.

Obama and his supporters have denied the charge.

Conservative Christian voters are deeply opposed to abortion and often cast their votes based on this issue alone.

A poll of registered delegates found that over 40 percent of those who responded ranked abortion as the most important issue when deciding which candidate to support in an election. There were 13 issues listed in the poll.

Protection of religious liberty was a distant second at 18 percent.

Former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee won a straw poll that asked delegates to choose the Republican they would most like to see take on Obama in 2012. Huckabee took 28.5 percent versus 12.4 percent for the runner-up, Romney.

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