Among evangelical leaders, Tim Pawlenty leads the list of preferred 2012 Republican presidential candidates. In the monthly poll of leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), 45 percent said they would name Pawlenty as the Republican candidate. Mitt Romney trailed Pawlenty with 14 percent. Twenty-two percent were undecided.

“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. While serving as governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty met with the NAE Board of Directors at its 2008 fall board meeting.

The open-ended June Evangelical Leaders Survey asked, “Assuming Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate, if you were to choose a preferred Republican presidential candidate for 2012, who would you name?” A similar question was posed for the October 2007 survey. Since there wasn’t an incumbent for the 2008 elections, that poll was open to candidates of both parties. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee led the 2007 list.

NAE President Leith Anderson said, “Pawlenty leads the list of Republican candidates for our evangelical leaders which might be expected since he is so often identified as an evangelical. Although, like the rest of the nation, there are still many undecided. With more than a year before the national nominating conventions, a lot can change.”

One denominational leader said, “At this point, no one seems a likely contender.”

While Romney leads national polls for the Republican candidacy, he didn’t fare as well among evangelical leaders. None mentioned Romney’s religious beliefs as a reason for naming another candidate. Of Romney, Ron Boehme, Director of Youth With A Mission, U.S. Renewal, said, “He has the executive experience, business background, moral principles, and electability to become the next President of the United States.”

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.