You can chart Richard Land's clout by his phone log. The 58-year-old Texan, the Southern Baptist Convention's main man in Washington, recalls that the Reagan Administration returned his calls promptly; the first Bush White House less so and Clinton's staff (eventually) not at all. Now? The men around his longtime friend George W. Bush don't sit around waiting for Land's call. They reach out to him, individually and as part of a weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.
Land, who helped engineer his 16-million-member convention's 1979 shift from moderacy to hard-line conservativism, has a hand in most of its key policies, from its 1995 apology for having supported slavery to its 1998 statement that wives should submit to the leadership of their devout husbands. Since arriving in Washington in 1987, Land has cultivated dozens of sympathetic members of Congress.
Princeton- and Oxford-educated, he is as formidable a public spokesman as he is in Washington's corridors and regularly battles culture-war foes on venues such as Meet the Press. "People think they're going to be dealing with some bootstrap preacher," says Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College. "But he can match pedigree and training with the best of them."
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