Mat Staver: Gingrich Campaign Chair…GOP Debate Moderator?

Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver announced yesterday that he will be hosting a presidential candidate forum at Florida Awake in Orlando on January 28, three days before the Florida primary, at the Aloma Baptist Church in Orlando.

Staver also participated in the 2008 Values Voter Presidential Debate in Florida, which featured candidates like Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Alan Keyes and Duncan Hunter, however, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson refused to appear. At that debate, Staver excoriated Thompson in absentia for supporting the right of state legislatures to legalize same-sex marriage, likening it to slavery, and McCain, Romney and Giuliani received similarly harsh treatment from the debate moderators over their stances on gay rights, abortion rights and campaign finance reform.

While Staver hasn’t said which candidates will appear at Florida Awake, all of the candidates save one may have a reason to avoid Staver’s forum: the very same day he announced his presidential candidate forum, he was named National Co-Chair of the Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition. Staver said that Gingrich is the “clear choice” to lead “a new conservative resurgence” against Obama, and joined fellow Religious Right leaders like Don Wildmon, Jim Garlow, George Barna and Tim LaHaye in backing the former Speaker.

While GOP candidates besides Gingrich have actively worked to capture the vote of social conservatives, it is odd that Staver would expect candidates to attend his debate when he is the co-chair of one of their opponent’s campaign coalitions.