GOP Candidates Woo Religious Right Today
by Jeff Dinelli
Big day for the Republican candidates for president today and tomorrow as they all will attend James Dobson's Family Research Council Values Voter conference, a Washington D.C. far-right evangelical goonfest that's going on all weekend as the strong voting bloc tries to decide who's gonna be their guy.
The religious right, who got out the vote in a big way for Bush the last two election cycles, are having trouble finding the right fit for their anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-separation of church and state, anti-gun control, anti-entertainment, anti-immigration, anti-public television, anti-women, anti-out-of-wedlock-births platform. Rudy Giuliani isn't a good fit due to his abortion rights, gay rights, pro-stem cell research, gun control record as Mayor of New York. Fred Thompson is seen as an "E-C" Christian, only attending church on Easter and Christmas. Mitt Romney is a Mormon with a semi-liberal record as governor of Massachusetts, but we'll get to him in a moment. Support for McCain is lukewarm, and the perfect fit of Baptist Minister Mike Huckabee is rejected due to his having absolutely no money, and thus long odds of capturing the nomination.
For many who will make up the flock of 2,300 attending, the goal is to prevent Rudy from being the Republican nominee. In fact, there has even been talk from evangelicals of a third-party candidate if Rudy gets it. "He has done everything to . . . put his finger in our eyes and tell us this constituency does not matter," said Steve Scheffler, head of the Iowa Christian Alliance.
John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer and conservative Christian who is active in politics in Florida, said: "Every other candidate has been at least pandering at some level. I am not aware of a single effort [by Giuliani's campaign] to reach out to evangelicals, or Catholics for that matter."
Drew McKissick, a Christian activist and Romney supporter, sent an e-mail to South Carolina evangelicals urging support for Romney and saying, "If it turns out to be Giuliani and Hillary [Clinton], we've got two pro-choice candidates, and that would be a disaster."
Tony Perkins, head of The Family Research Council, calls Rudy "indistinguishable" from Hillary Clinton, plus there's that nagging fact of being on his third wife, one of which happened to be his cousin. Rudy is expected to spend 98% of his speech attacking Hillary.
Romney, on the other hand, has already picked up the endorsement of Bob Jones III, and seems to be on the cusp of possibly securing this support, despite his being Mormon, and his questionable views on abortion and gay marriage when he was a governor. Excerpts from his planned speech to the group include some truly bizarre gems, like this one: "It’s time to make out-of-wedlock births out of fashion again." Or this:
"I will appoint and fight for justices who follow the law and the Constitution, who understand judicial restraint and who won’t legislate from the bench. But being a pro-life president also means promoting policies that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life. I will oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, oppose partial-birth abortion, oppose abortion in military clinics, oppose funding abortion in international aid programs, and I will work to ban embryonic cloning. I will work to increase adoptions by making the adoption tax credit permanent and raising awareness about embryonic adoption, or snowflake babies."
Things are not all rosy with Christians and Romney, however. Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told his huge flock a few weeks ago, "Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Even though he talks about Jesus as his Lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult."
Don't you just love this? I get such a kick out of this completely absurd situation. Chuck Colson, Watergate felon turned evangelical leader, told the Washington Post, "At the moment, there’s nothing but confusion every place I go. They lament the fact that there’s no one candidate out there around whom evangelicals and conservative Catholics can sort of coalesce around and get excited about." He added, "Nobody has rung the bell yet."
Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger points out there will be a straw poll at the end of the weekend. Please, C-SPAN, cover this thing. If any of you see it over the weekend, please email me, I absolutely love this religious nut-job stuff. Beyond the hilarity of it all, though, is the very real fact that this evangelical support will be a major coup for somebody.
If any of these guys can convince the dingbats in D.C. they're Christian enough.