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Pawlenty leads GOP hopefuls in evangelical poll

Nearly half of evangelical leaders want to see Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty win the Republican nomination for president in 2012, according to a poll of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Asked whom they would name the GOP nominee, 45 percent of the leaders said Pawlenty, the association reported Thursday. Fourteen percent said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; Twenty-two percent were undecided.

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Pawlenty met with the association's board of directors in 2008.

"Tim and Mary are devoted followers of Jesus, bright, articulate, a proven record and have none of the negatives of the other candidates," said George Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

The National Association of Evangelicals posed the question in the June edition of the Evangelical Leaders Survey, its monthly poll of "CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches."

The association asked: "Assuming Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate, if you were to choose a preferred Republican presidential candidate for 2012, who would you name?"

Association President Leith Anderson said Pawlenty's popularity "might be expected since he is so often identified as an evangelical."

"Like the rest of the nation, there are still many undecided," Anderson said. "With more than a year before the national nominating conventions, a lot can change."

Romney is a Mormon. The association said none of the evangelical leaders polled mentioned Romney's religious beliefs as a reason for naming another candidate."He has the executive experience, business background, moral principles, and electability to become the next President of the United States," said Ron Boehme, Director of Youth With A Mission, U.S. Renewal.

Four years ago, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was the top choice of leaders polled by the association.

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