Giuliani's popularity in '08 race alarms religious conservative leaders
Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, and Gary Bauer, of American Values, were guests at a Monitor breakfast Wednesday.
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Neither Perkins nor Bauer muster a great deal of enthusiasm for the candidacy of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, even though he has strong evangelical credentials. Mr. Huckabee attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, served as a Baptist pastor, and later was president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.Skip to next paragraph
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"While Governor Huckabee is very good on all the social issues, he has not seemed to find solid footing on the issue of the threat internationally from radical Islam," Perkins said.
"In a major foreign-policy address a couple of weeks ago that did not get much attention … in the middle of the speech [Huckabee] went after the Bush administration on not aggressively negotiating enough with Iran and suggested that the administration needs to offer economic incentives for Iran to change its policy," Bauer said. "That just struck me as a very naive approach."
With Huckabee ranking low in the polls, the key question confronting religious conservative leaders is how to react if Republicans nominate a candidate – Giuliani – who supports abortion rights.
Perkins divides the question into short- and long-term decisions. "Short term, everybody realizes that a third-party effort would not work in this presidential election. It may pull enough votes to keep a pro-abortion-rights Republican from winning. It is not going to succeed in electing a pro-life candidate."
The longer term issue is what religious conservatives will do if the Republican Party retreats from the social issues which had tied it to values voters. "Then I think the social conservatives within the ranks have to consider where is there long-term home. And I do believe long term it could give rise to a serious thought of a third party," Perkins said.
Recent public comments from leaders of the religious conservative movement about the possibility of forming a third party, were "an early Christmas gift for Hillary Clinton and not good overall for the work we have tried to do in a very imperfect Republican Party," Bauer said.
"I think our movement is at its best when we are talking to the American people about why we are pro-life," Bauer observed. "And I think we are at our least attractive when we sound like the AFL-CIO – either do it my way or I am taking my marbles and going home."
He argued that "a pro-choice Republican nominee would make it almost impossible to get out a large evangelical or values voter vote. But I think when you go to the next step and threaten a third party, that just makes it very hard to build the kind of coalitions that you have to build in American politics."