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October 10, 2007
Column #1,363
Evangelical Disenchantment With Politicians
by Mike McManus

Fifty pro-family leaders of America gathered in Salt Lake City two weeks ago to discuss what their response would be if both the Democrats and Republicans nominated a President supportive of abortion.

"After two hours of deliberation, we voted on a resolution that can be summarized as follows: If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor party candidate," wrote Dr. James Dobson, whose Focus on the Family radio show is heard by 220 million people in a New York Times column.

"Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous. The other issue discussed at length concerned the advisability of creating a third party if Democrats and Republicans do indeed abandon the sanctity of human life and other traditional family values. Though there was some support for the proposal, no consensus emerged," he asserted.

He was speaking personally, not for his organization or the Salt Lake group. However, what he said was so shocking that Fox's Sean Hannity, a conservative, challenged Dobson Tuesday night: if Republicans nominated Rudolph Giuliani, and a third-party challenge was mounted, the result "would be a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton... the partial-birth-supporting Hillary; that's national health care Hillary; that's Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hillary. Are you prepared to accept that inevitable result?"

Dobson recalled that in 1988 he told a crowd of 400,000 people at the Washington Monument. "I pledge hereby never for the rest of my life to vote for anyone who would kill innocent babies."

Hannity noted that all four candidates leading the Republican race in the polls - Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and John McCain, said they would appoint people to the Supreme Court such as conservatives Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and John Roberts, while Clinton can be expected to appoint liberals like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Dobson expressed doubt that Giuliani could be trusted, given his pro-abortion position,  his opposition to a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman, and his "personal moral background" of two divorces and three marriages, though he is a Catholic.

What about former Sen. Fred Thompson, who has always been pro-life?

Dobson wrote a memo, saying "Isn't Fred Thompson the candidate that is opposed to a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S....won't talk about what he believes, can't speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?  He has no passion, no zeal, no apparent `want to,' yet he is apparently the great hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians. Well, not for me, my brothers, not for me."

What about Sen. McCain who is pro-life? He was the primary sponsor of the McCain-Feingold law limiting campaign contributions that also prohibited organizations publishing ads  mentioning a federal candidate within 60 days of an election.  Groups as diverse as the National Rifle Association and the California Democratic Party argued that limited their First Amendment rights to free speech. (Wisconsin Right to Life's ads were later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.) McCain also opposes a federal Marriage Amendment.

And Mitt Romney who is leading in Iowa Polls? He supports a Marriage Amendment and says he is passionately pro-life.  However, when he ran for Massachusetts governor, he supported gay civil unions and was pro-abortion. While he now says he was wrong earlier, some evangelicals are concerned about his flip-flops.

Evangelical skepticism is based on sad experience. They feel courted before an election, but ignored afterwards.  George Bush campaigned in 2000 as a passionate supporter of vouchers, or school choice.  Once elected, he abandoned the idea to join with Sen. Ted Kennedy in "No Child Left Behind."

Thus the issues troubling evangelical leaders go far beyond abortion to include marriage, personal morality, freedom of speech, school choice, competence and flip-flopping on issues.

  Minor candidates, such as Sam  Brownback and Mike Huckabee support Evangelical values, but are only single digits in polls.

Some Evangelical leaders say they will await a "Value Voters Summit"  sponsored by the Family Research Council next weekend.  All candidates were invited.  No Democrat accepted, though all Republicans did so. A straw poll will be taken of the 2,000 attendees.

FRC President Tony Perkins, who attended the Salt Lake meeting, is optimistic that one or two candidates "will emerge with a strong consensus of support from social conservatives."

Could that propel them past Giuliani, derailing his candidacy?

Possibly - but if only one emerges triumphant.

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