Chasing the conservative base

Republican rivals Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and John McCain sought on Friday to become the favorite of anxious social conservatives, each suggesting he offered the best chance of thwarting abortion rights supporter Rudy Giuliani.

“This is not the time to turn our back on the progress we’ve made on the issues that matter most,” McCain, the Arizona senator, told a receptive gathering of “values voters.” “I have a record that can be trusted.”

Drawing whistles and applause, Mitt Romney said: “We’re not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton.” The former Massachusetts governor added: “I’m pro-family on every level from personal to political.”

Thompson, who acknowledged last month that he wasn’t a regular churchgoer, earned a standing ovation and cheers when he said what he would do immediately after being inaugurated: “I would go into the Oval Office and close the door and pray for the wisdom to know what was right, and I would pray for the strength to do what is right.”

Without mentioning Giuliani by name, the trio each made pitches to be the main alternative to the former New York mayor’s candidacy. Giuliani’s success so far in the GOP nomination race has prompted talk among leading conservatives of possibly backing a third-party candidate.

The thrice-married Republican leads in national popularity polls and has sought common ground with social conservatives despite his support for abortion rights and gay rights. He argues that whether or not people agree with him on the issues, he has the best chance to beat Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.

Campaigning in Florida on Friday, Giuliani said, “What I’ve found among what you call social conservatives is a great respect for the fact that I’m honest with them and I’m not trying to change all my positions just to fit what somebody wants. What I am able to do is to say to them, ‘On the very big issues, on the important issues, we’re together. On nine out of 10 issues we agree with each other.'”

Giuliani speaks to the group Saturday, as does former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister who is favored by Christian evangelicals but whose campaign has made little headway.

As the conference convened, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, another favorite of the religious right, bowed out of the race. Of social conservatives, Brownback said: “I came to them with the cause, but I don’t have the resources and the name.”

Religious and cultural conservatives make up a significant part of the GOP base but have not yet coalesced around any one candidate. Recent Associated Press-Ipsos polls found roughly one in five conservatives, churchgoers and Christian evangelicals still undecided.

Their leaders have largely rejected Giuliani because of his moderate-to-liberal positions on social issues and view the other three leading candidates as flawed for various reasons.

  • Romney, a Mormon from Massachusetts, once backed abortion rights but has reversed himself on that issue and shifted to the right on others during his presidential run.
  • McCain angered social conservatives when he called their leaders “agents of intolerance” in 2000. He hasn’t been a vocal champion of their core issues even though he has a solidly right-flank voting record.
  • Thompson has drawn criticism for conflicting statements on abortion in his Senate races, his lobbying work on behalf of an abortion-rights organization and his opposition to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Thompson, McCain and Romney are urging social conservatives to put those concerns aside and rally around one of them — or risk a Giuliani nomination.

Thus, all three filled their speeches with frequent references to God as they emphasized their opposition to abortion, their support for marriage between men and women only and their commitment to appoint judges who would not legislate from the bench.

Romney, whose Mormon faith has made some evangelical Christians wary, tried to dismiss the notion that his religion was repelling voters.

“I imagine that one or two of you may have heard that I’m Mormon,” he said, drawing chuckles from the friendly crowd. “I understand that some people think that they couldn’t support someone of my faith. But I think that’s just because they’ve listened to Harry Reid,” he said, referring to the Senate Democratic leader from Nevada, who also is of the same faith.

Romney added: “What I’m really pleased about is that so many people of faith have come to endorse my candidacy and my message.”

Thompson, for his part, called himself a consistent conservative during his Senate tenure, adding: “That’s who I was then, that’s who I am today and that’s the kind of president I would be.”

McCain, who got a polite reception and then a standing ovation, slapped at all three of his top competitors.

“I’ll match my record of defending conservative principles against any other candidate in this race,” McCain said, adding that while voters may not always agree with him, “I hope you know I’m not going to con you.”


  1. keith

    Finally…FINALLY…. the so-called “social conservatives” are learning just how out of touch with the rest of society (and our Constitution) they really are as fewer and fewer candidates for public office are now showing up at their “values sessions”.

    Maybe that’s because the religious right’s grand strategy to turn our nation into a despotic theocracy is also now falling down around their ears as more and more of the rest of us witness the sheer, blatant hypocrisy (if not the outright fraud) now being perpetuated by many of the so-called “leaders” of these “holier than thou” types.

    In that (very) narrow sense, the Presidency of George W. Bush has been an absolute Godsend because the true nature of their (and his) theocratic plans for our nation have now been revealed (and personified) for all to see.

    Clearly, the hypocrisy of such “Christian” behavior (purported to be founded on principles of love, inclusiveness and acceptance, but which all too often manifests itself as narrow intolerance for the beliefs and behavior of others) is now blatantly on display for the rest of the world to see.

    As a result, it’s becoming ever harder for even so-called “mainstream” Christians (even many who, for example, still call themselves Roman Catholic) to blindly accept lectures from the pulpit on what is “abnormal” sexual behavior from an institution that still firmly considers celibacy for its priests to be “normal”.

    Our Founding Fathers very carefully crafted our Constitution so as to firmly prohibit the establishment of a “state religion” all the while guaranteeing every citizen the right to freely express their own religious beliefs. And I certainly have no qualm with someone expressing their religious beliefs in their own, private way.

    But those of us who still firmly believe in the full separation of Church and State should recognize such chicanery for what it is…a desperate, last-ditch attempt to salvage what’s left of religion’s once complete (but now shrinking) power (often aided and abetted by “government”) to control people’s money, thoughts and lives.

    Thankfully, I (and most others) are now firmly drawing the line when the “holy rollers” attempt to cram their highly intolerant and horrifically narrow religious beliefs (cleverly disguised as “family values”) down the rest of our throats via the legislative process.

    Maybe that’s because we have now learned that their so-called “Moral Majority” wasn’t so “moral” (nor was it ever a “majority”) after all.

  2. Sandra Price

    It all comes down to the abortion issue. Not one of the candidates has stated that he will promote and support an Amendment to the Constitution that will prohibit not only abortions but gay marriages, death with dignity and stem cell research.

    If these holy men are truthful and sincere, why do they refuse to admit that they are running as Conservatives fully intending to plan another Amendment?

    Are Americans ready for a prohibition again to be legislated through an Amendment? I want those “family values” defined! It is one thing to be against abortion and another to use the government to legally prohibit it. These spineless idiots are pulling a fast one on the American voters. I have emailed all of them and not one answered my questions. Throw the bastards back to the days of the Inquisitions! If you want a Republican in the White House consider Rudy with threats to the others to keep their dirty hands off his campaign. Nothing plays dirtier than the religious right.

  3. Sandra Price

    If you want to see the Conservatives in action, just watch the Debate found on Fox News tonight at 8 PM eastern, 5 PM Pacific. It will be a contest of who is most holy among the candidates. With Brownback out of the contest the others will foam at the mouth in their effort to look more like Jesus Christ.

    Hopefully Ron Paul will stand up for the Constitution but will not have the Separation of Church and State behind him as the others have erased it from our government. He has lost any advantage with this group of fools on the stage with him.

  4. SEAL

    The first election I remember was Truman beating Dewey and how happy all the people around me were about that. His victory was heralded as the greatest political upset in history. He accomplished it with what they called a “whistle stop” campaign. They hooked several RR cars to a locomotive and traveled all across America, stopping at every little “whistle stop” town they came to where Truman would stand on the platform of the last car, make a short speach, and then just talk to the people.

    Truman put a real person to his campaign at a time when the only media was newspapers and radio. The most signifigant thing he showed people was that this was their country and he wanted to represent “them.” He stood there and and “listened” and answered the “peoples” questions. That is what is missing in today’s campaigns.

    Now we have correographed TV shows with questions from special interest groups designed to create the concept that “their” issues are the only determinants for voting and questions from moderators that will favor the candidate who is the special interest’s choice. Both parties do this.

    The mission is to create what the public will consider in choosing who to vote for instead of asking the public what they are concerned about. When they publicize a debate with questions submitted by viewers, the questions are screened and special interest questions are selected by the special interest media. Unfortunately, this works on a majority of voters.

    In the instant case, the bible thumpers want America to base their decision on things that have no bearing on the future of this nation. That is, unless they succeed in getting a person elected that actually believes, supports, and will implement their platform. If that happens, the Constitution will become what teachers in schools with bars on the windows and Blackwater guards patrolling the hallways will tell their smartly uniformed students was the quaint document that ruled America before the glorious christian revolution.

    The christian right thought they had their “second coming” in Bush but he, being the phony “born again” that he is, has disappointed them. They did make a lot of headway under his administration but their core issues of abortion and gay marriage have been given only lip service. They realize they have been betrayed, left stranded in the political desert, and soon to be at the mercy of the Hillaryites. There is no haloed warrior for their army to follow to victory this time so, now, they must find a Moses to lead them to safety and work to retain enough disciples in congress to retain the gains they have made until the next election.

  5. Jerry

    What would Jesus do?

    Jesus would make George’s tax cuts for the rich permanent, bomb Iran, ignore corruption amongst contractors and the US military in Iraq, prosecute 16 year-old girls who seek out abortions, persecute gays who want to marry and settle down, lock up a lot of people (many without charge) and maybe do a bit of torture-lite on the side.

    I think that’s what the various GOP candidates would agree Jesus would do, in order to pander to the religious nutters on the right who want to feed at the federal trough while persecuting teenage girls, gays, immigrants and anyone who looks as if they could benefit from waterboarding — all good Christian values.

    Not for nothing is the symbol of Christianity a innocent defendant being tortured on a cross by the powers-that-be. Suits them to a T.

  6. Ms.Phitt

    Jerry – I am a Christian and yet I applaud your answer.

    I like your Christ.
    I do not like your Christians.
    They are so unlike your Christ.

    Unfortunately, what right-wing Christians and the GOP say and do appears to be further and further removed from what Jesus taught. More and more, it’s about judging, excluding, and controlling others rather than taking a hard honest look at yourself and making the changes that need to be made there. Let’s face it, the former is so much easier and less unpleasant than the latter.

    It seems to me that right-wing Christians are the modern-day Pharisees, carefully selecting a few Scriptures they will use to beat others over the head with for personal, political, or financial gain, while ignoring all the rest that talk about peacemaking, leaving judgement to God, and loving others as yourself. When you combine that with politics, you start moving toward a corrupt authoritarian religious state… the exact same thing we’ve supposedly been fighting against in the Middle East and elsewhere. Same thing, different religion… and yet the biggest proponents of these wars in the name of democracy and freedom are the same ones chipping away at democracy and freedom at home. Guess it’s only okay if it’s a Christian corrupt authoritarian religious state.

    I say thank God their hypocrisy is now coming to light. But then, that’s Biblical too. 😉

    It is my sincere hope that right-wing Christians do separate from the GOP, and continue to lose momentum to such a degree that they will have no choice but to step down from their high horse and stop treating other people like subjects to be controlled. Then the GOP can actually start being consistent to its belief in smaller government by butting out of people’s personal lives. And wouldn’t that be a refreshing change.