Among evangelical leaders, Tim Pawlenty leads the list of preferred 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

That’s according to a monthly poll of leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) -- which also happens to be led by Pawlenty’s pastor, the Rev. Leith Anderson.

The poll shows 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 (wife) 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, in a released statement Thursday from the NAE.

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.

Anderson, NAE president and senior pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, 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.”

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.

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.