Robertson straddles political, religious roles
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``I think Pat has a problem,'' says Gary Jarmin, director of Christian Voice, a religious-right political organizing group. Does he want to be a political leader with a strong religious background or does he want to remain a religious leader who occasionally speaks out on political issues? ``He never resolved that identity crisis,'' Mr. Jarmin says.Skip to next paragraph
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Robertson still appears to be straddling his religious and political roles. He currently plans to stay full time at CBN, as well as campaigning actively this fall for George Bush and other Republican candidates, according to his press secretary, Barbara Gattullo.
Some convervatives, led by Sen. Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire, threaten to nominate an alternative running mate this week, if Mr. Bush picks one whom they deem unacceptably liberal. Robertson rejects this approach. His message to his troops this week: Close ranks to elect George Bush, regardless of the running mate.
``We really think the Bush campaign has made every effort to include us and ask our opinion, and we think it's wonderful,'' says Ms. Gattullo.
Robertson is expected to give a big-picture speech Tuesday on the decay of America's moral fiber. He is also likely to exhort his supporters to remain active in Republican Party politics.
Most analysts say they believe that the Robertson activists are in the party to stay - with or without Robertson.
James Guth, a Furman University political scientist who has studied Robertson activists, says Robertson brought ``a significant but still fairly small addition of activists to the party core. That will persist.''
Indeed, Robertson activists have penetrated deeply into many state and local party organizations. Robertson's campaign chairman in Nevada is now state party chairman. Robertson campaigners also dominate the national delegations this week of Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, and Washington.
Although Robertson never finished prominently in a primary, his followers often dominated caucuses through diligent organizing efforts.
In most cases, the Robertson newcomers are being peacefully integrated into the ranks of the GOP leadership. There are some glaring exceptions.
The bitterness of Robertson supporters in Michigan, where they were outmaneuvered by the Bush and Kemp campaigns, is so deep that some are supporting Libertarian Party candidate Ron Paul in protest against Bush.
A dispute between a Robertson delegation from Georgia and one selected by party regulars was settled by the Republican National Committee last week. The compromise favors the Robertson camp roughly 28 delegates to 20.
Defeat has not disillusioned the Robertson troops. Most insist they are driven by issues, not by Robertson. ``I do not think this is a thing that has happened once and will disappear,'' says Carter Wrenn, director of the National Congressional Club, a conservative fund-raising group.
Robertson ``has the great potential of being quite a leader,'' Mr. Weyrich says, if he campaigns hard this fall for other candidates, shows longevity and seriousness, and begins to expand his base.
``If Bush loses this fall,'' notes Hubert Morken, a political scientist at Oral Roberts University, ``Robertson will be very strongly in position to run again.''