Mitt Romney

Monaghan Endorses Romney

With Sam Brownback out of the race, Domino's Pizza founder and right-wing money man Tom Monaghan has endorsed Mitt Romney: "Governor Romney is a man of principle. As someone who values the importance of faith in one's life, I recognize in Mitt his deep religious convictions which will serve him well in facing the critical moral issues facing our society. I believe he will stand firm on the pro-life issues and for the traditional family values that our country was founded on and which are so critical to the future of our nation."

Hijacking the Language of Faith

Yesterday, The Press Register in Alabama ran an op-ed by Randy Brinson entitled “Language of Faith Hijacked.”  In it, Brinson complained that all of the talk of faith in the current presidential election is confusing voters:

In this presidential cycle, nearly every campaign, both Democrat and Republican, has developed a faith outreach component to facilitate communicating to the faithful. The 2008 presidential election will focus on the faith and values of the individual candidates more than any in modern history.

While this may give solace to many faith-oriented political activists, it only makes it difficult for voters to decipher which candidate truly understands the link between personal faith and policy.

Despite this onslaught of personal spirituality, it has been even more difficult for voters to determine whether some of the candidates even understand the particular faith they profess to embrace.

Brinson went on to criticize Barack Obama, saying that his talk of faith, “may be losing the audience he seeks to engage,” and Mitt Romney, questioning “if his Mormon faith guided his present moral convictions, what guided him when he was pro-choice and pro-gay-rights?”

Brinson concluded by seemingly urging these candidates, and presumably others, to focus less on faith and more on “candor, integrity, honesty and character,” as that is what voters are looking for in a candidate.  

Of course, nowhere in the piece does Brinson bother to mention that he has been actively involved in assisting Mike Huckabee:

The Values Voter barnstorm [through Iowa] will be led by Pastor Rick Scarborough, an early Huckabee endorser. Participants include R. Randolph "Randy" Brinson, an iconoclastic social conservative doctor from Alabama who possesses a huge list of Iowa pastors and Christian conservatives. He's also the head of ReedemTheVote, which was active in 2004 and 2006 as a voter registration vehicle for young evangelicals.

As the Washington Post explained last month:

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's surge in Iowa, from single digits in the polls to a virtual tie for the lead among Republicans, has captivated the political world and prompted speculation about just how he did it.

The Fix may have found the answer: a physician from Montgomery, Ala., named Randy Brinson.

Brinson is the keeper of a massive e-mail list of much-coveted Christian voters that Huckabee is using to reach and organize people in early-voting states such as Iowa.

Brinson's list numbers about 71 million contacts, with 25 million identified as belonging to "25 and 45 years old, upwardly mobile, right-of-center, conservative households," he said. In other words, a target-rich environment for a candidate such as Huckabee, who is preaching a compassionate conservative message heavily infused with religious sentiment.

In fact, this op-ed appears to be an outgrowth of an email Brinson sent around not too long ago attacking Mitt Romney for … you guessed it, hijacking the language of faith

Brinson wrote an e-mail distributed widely in Iowa that questioned the changed views of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on abortion and gay rights and that asked whether Romney was really being led by his Mormon faith.

Some political commentators have credited that e-mail with being one of several factors that helped turn out conservative Christians for Huckabee.

Brinson said Friday he sent the e-mail because he was concerned that some candidates had "hijacked the language of faith."

Since he’s backing Huckabee, who has made his faith the center of his campaign, Brinson is obviously not worried about political candidates using faith for political purposes.  But like many other religious right activists, he seems to think the “language of faith” is reserved for the “right” kind of “Christian Leader.”

Right-Wing CA Delegates

Rudy Giuliani announces that anti-Affirmative Action crusader Ward Connerly will be among those representing his campaign in the California Republican primary election, while Mitt Romney announces that Lou Sheldon will be among his delegates.

Romney Supporters Resent Huckabee's Focus on Faith

You know something strange is happening within the Republican Party when the supporters of one GOP presidential hopeful start complaining that another is using religion to polarize the electorate. A few weeks ago, we noted how the National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez, a vocal Mitt Romney backer, was accusing Mike Huckabee of using the issue of faith in order "to change the subject away from policy and record issues" - as if that has not been the Religious Right's primary tactic for the last two decades. Now it looks as if this talking point has been picked up by others inside the Romney campaign as well:
Mark DeMoss – a fellow Southern Baptist leader and outspoken supporter of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney – argues that the most important qualification when electing someone to public office is proven ability to manage the country rather than the religion litmus test. “I believe faith plus character plus experience plus competence is a recipe for the ideal presidential candidate,” wrote DeMoss in an opinion piece posted on the Web site “But faith alone should neither disqualify one from getting my vote, nor guarantee that they will.” The Christian public relations guru added that a candidate’s “character cannot be overstated” but that his or her “faith can be” and in “this election probably has been.”
Likewise, James Bopp, who is also a Romney supporter, took to the pages of the National Review yesterday to make much the same point:
By emphasizing his qualification for office as a “Christian leader,” the Huckabee campaign, however, has implicitly, and some of his supporters have explicitly, promoted a religious test for office. This threatens to tear this religious coalition apart. And if evangelical Christians legitimize a religious test for public office, they will pay the heaviest price. The liberal elites have long sought to drive people of faith from the public square. They view Mormons as a curiosity, like Christians on steroids, but they loath and fear evangelicals. If a religious test is legitimate for public office, then the Democrats will drive evangelicals out of our democracy.
In other words, Bopp and DeMoss realize that the issue of faith is important and helpful politically only so long as the Republican Party can lay exclusive claim to it and use it as a cudgel against Democrats. But now that Huckabee is doing to Romney what Bopp, DeMoss, and the rest of the Religious Right have been doing to their opponents for the last twenty years, there is a lot of hand-wringing about the inappropriateness of having this type of "religious test" for political candidates and fears that he's ruining the Religious Right's favorite tactic. If the Romney campaign really is opposed to this practice of not-so-subtly denigrating a political opponent's faith and values, does that mean that he will eschew it should he become the GOP's candidate? If so, he might want to disband his "Faith and Values Steering Committee" - which is filled with people like Mark DeMoss and James Bopp.

English First Backs Romney

The English First Political Victory Fund has endorsed Mitt Romney, calling him "a veritable Rock of Gibraltar on official English."

Romney's Christmas Present to the Gay Lobby?

Peter LaBarbera blasts Mitt Romney for "supporting pro-homosexual 'sexual orientation' state laws," saying "Mitt Romney's Christmas present to the homosexual lobby disqualifies him as a pro-family leader. Laws that treat homosexuality as a civil right are being used to promote homosexual 'marriage,' same-sex adoption and pro-homosexuality indoctrination of schoolchildren. These same laws pose a direct threat to the freedom of faith-minded citizens and organizations to act on their religious belief that homosexual behavior is wrong."

Right To Life Targeting Romney

American Right To Life Action is running TV ads in Iowa that say that Mitt Romney is "willing to sacrifice children, [and] lying for your vote."

When Right-Wing Christians Come Home to Roost

It is not secret that the National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez has been an avid backer of Mitt Romney for some time now and undoubtedly played no small role in getting her magazine to officially endorse him just last week.

From her position with NRO, she has been going all out to defend Romney against his critics and yesterday blasted Mike Huckabee for, of all things, using religion to polarize the GOP primary campaign:

In his role as an aspiring “Christian leader,” as one of his campaign commercials put it, he is doing nothing to raise the level of the public conversation about those running for president and the issues facing our nation. He has an utter lack of knowledge on foreign-policy issues — a reality he tries to laugh off — and on the issue he knows most, religion, to say he is completely unhelpful would be profoundly understating the case.

As the media focuses on the fact that fellow candidate Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Huckabee has been presented a real opportunity to bring people together, to take the media obsession off of how religious evangelicals cannot tolerate a Mormon president. But instead of rising to the occasion, Huckabee makes things worse. In his most unfortunate moment, he played innocent with a New York Times reporter and asked, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Now he is running a commercial using Christ and Christmas to change the subject away from policy and record issues.


The Republican party owes the American people the best candidate it can offer. The anti-Mormon vote is not going to win anything for Republicans. A uniting, rallying message from a conservative candidate, with a record as a successful executive who knows and believes in the promise of America, can.

It is absolutely stunning that Lopez would level this criticism against Huckabee, considering that what he is doing to Romney is exactly what the Right has been doing to their opponents since their inception two decades ago (i.e., using religion to mobilize their own activists and polarize the electorate.)

Did Lopez voice such outrage when right-wing leaders like Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer claimed that Democratic presidential candidates are “frauds” for talking about their own faith and accused them of doing so only to conceal “their long history of hostility toward Christians”? Did she come to Barack Obama’s defense when the National Clergy Council wrote an entire report attempting to discredit his faith?  What was her response when Rep. Pete Stark was attacked by Concerned Women for America and the Traditional Values Coalition for admitting that he “does not believe in a Supreme Being”?  Did she complain that the organizers of the Justice Sunday events or the "War on Christians" conference were squandering an "opportunity to bring people together"? Did she voice such concerns when Romney himself joined a bevy of right-wing activists at "Liberty Sunday" to warn that the radical homosexual agenda was out to destroy religious freedom?  Is she upset that Romney’s own National Faith and Values Steering Committee is chock full of people, like Lou Sheldon, who've made careers out of using religion as a divisive political club with which to pound opponents?

Obviously not. 

Apparently, it is okay for Republicans and their Religious Right allies to engage in base religious pandering and polarization, so long as it is directed against Democrats and progressive advocates, but it is unacceptable for any candidate to stoop to "playing religious hardball" against another Republican.

Does Lopez not realize that this is standard operating procedure for the Religious Right? And does she not realize that Mike Huckabee's record and rhetoric make him the ultimate Religious Right candidate? Has there ever been another serious presidential contender that has run ads touting himself as a "Christian Leader" or stating that "what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ"? Does she not see that Huckabee's entire campaign to this point has hinged on his ability to garner the support of polarizing right-wing activists?

As such, did she really expect Huckabee to refrain from insinuating that his opponent's faith is somehow lacking and illegitimate? It’s what the Right does best.

To expect a candidate relying on the likes of supporters such as Janet Folger, Rick Scarborough, Don Wildmon, and Beverly LaHaye to "rise to the occasion" and shun the practice of "playing religious hardball" is downright naive, especially when there are electoral gains to be made by doing exactly that.

Former 'Reclaiming America' Director Resurfaces, Taps Thompson

When the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ shut down earlier this year, all eyes were on its founder, televangelism titan D. James Kennedy, who passed away a few months later. But what about its low-key director, Gary Cass—whatever happened to him?

Well, he’s recently set up a new group called the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. Like the Catholic League front group Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, Cass’s organization plays on the reputation of the Anti-Defamation League to signify that there is currently a trend of “bigotry” against Christians in the U.S. on par with the anti-Semitism that marked the period leading up to the Holocaust.

The “persecuted majority” theme is nothing new on the Religious Right; nor is it new territory for Cass, who spoke at the “War on Christians” conference in 2006. Cass has apparently written a book called “Christian Bashing”: “It is time for Christians to stand up and call bigotry by its rightful name and to fight back when defamed," he cries.

And now Cass is turning to the presidential primary. He denounced Rudy Giuliani after the candidate said he didn’t take the biblical story of Jonah and the whale literally. “It’s either Jesus and Jonah or Giuliani. I prefer Christ’s approach to the Bible,” wrote Cass. When Mitt Romney gave his religion speech, Cass was quick to tread where few other religious-right activists would go, attacking Romney’s “Mormon dollars” and the church’s alleged “hostility to Christianity”:

As a Bishop in the Mormon Church, Mitt Romney is free to believe Mormonism's doctrines, practice their secret rituals and take their sacred vows, but Romney's Mormon beliefs are not Christian. More importantly, he has not renounced Mormonism's historic antipathy toward Christianity. This is an important aspect of any evaluation the American voters make regarding his fitness for office.

And last week, rather than follow in the footsteps of Mike Huckabee-booster Janet Folger, Cass’s predecessor at the Center for Reclaiming America, Cass endorsed the slumberous campaign of Fred Thompson. Thompson, who appears to be hoping for a “strong third” in Iowa, said that he was “deeply grateful” and that Cass was “held in high regard by conservative Evangelical Christians across the country.” So can we expect Thompson to liven up his campaign by alleging widespread “bigotry” against Christians and muttering about the “secret rituals” of his opponent’s religion?

Twenty Years Later: Bork Backs Romney

For months, Republican presidential hopefuls have been wooing potential conservative voters with pledges to nominate right-wing ideologues to the seats on the federal judiciary and, more importantly, the Supreme Court.  Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have been the two candidates most actively pushing this pledge, both having unveiled their own respective “judicial advisory committees” stuffed with judicial confirmation activists ranging from Ted Olson and Miguel Estrada to Jay Sekulow and James Bopp.  

But now Mitt Romney appears to have a leg-up in the battle over which candidate can secure the most militantly right-wing backer by landing the endorsement of Robert Bork:

Today, noted conservative jurist Judge Robert Bork endorsed Governor Mitt Romney for President of the United States.

Joining Romney for President, Judge Bork said, "Throughout my career, I have had the honor of serving under several Presidents and am proud to make today's endorsement. No other candidate will do more to advance the conservative judicial movement than Governor Mitt Romney … Our next President may be called upon to make more than one Supreme Court nomination, and Governor Romney is committed to nominating judges who take their oath of office seriously and respect the rule of law in our nation. I also support Governor Romney because of his character, his integrity and his stands on the major issues facing the United States."

Welcoming Judge Bork's support, Governor Romney said, "For decades, Judge Bork has been a leader in moving the conservative legal movement forward. As one of our nation's premier conservative jurists, he has been an important voice for our conservative values in Washington. I look forward to his counsel and working with him on the most important judicial matters facing our nation today."

Earlier this year, Bork appeared at the Values Voter Summit where he explained that social conservatives must use “tactical discretion” and continue to support the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, no matter who it is, in order to ensure that right-wing justices end up on the Supreme Court because, ultimately, “the object should be to get rid of Roe [v. Wade]:

While Romney may consider Bork to “one of our nation's premier conservative jurists,” that was obviously not the view of the bipartisan group of 58 senators who defeated Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987, rejecting his extremist legal and judicial philosophy.  

In light of Bork’s endorsement, perhaps now would be a good time to dust off a 2002 PFAW op-ed ”In Praise of 'Borking’” which takes on the Right-created mythology that Bork was somehow the victim of a smear. In reality his confirmation hearings were perhaps the best public conversation about the Constitution that most Americans had ever seen, and it was Bork's own extremism that led to his bipartisan defeat.

A Reverse Religious Test?

What does Mike Huckabee need to get Religious Right leaders and voters to rally around his candidacy?  Apparently, all he needs is to have his right-wing views and record criticized by “elite secularists”:

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, DC, says Huckabee is being subjected to the same reverse religious litmus test that was applied during judicial confirmation hearings between 2003 and 2005.

"Senator Charles Schumer of New York said that he was opposed to some of these nominees of the president because of their 'deeply held personal beliefs' and those beliefs coming from their faith -- in particular, regarding abortion and seeing it as wrong," Perkins points out. "So we see a reverse religious test being applied [saying essentially] that anyone who has a vibrant Christian faith that impacts their life will have to choose between that faith and serving in public office -- and that, simply, is wrong."

Perkins says "elite secularists" are trying single out Huckabee because of his evangelical Christian faith, and are attempting to "make him look scary" to the public because he, among other things, rejects evolution, believes in the Bible, and trusts in Jesus Christ. But such efforts, the evangelical leader suggests, may only serve to generate more support for Huckabee in the conservative Christian community.

"I think there's a clear understanding and an attitude [about this] among Christians," says the FRC president. "They're simply tired of the elites who belittle their beliefs and attempt to rob them of every public reflection of their faith -- and I think this could backfire."

As always, whenever a Republican is questioned about his or her views and record, the Right’s immediate response is to impugn the motives of those who dare to point them out and accuse them of harboring everything from anti-Latino prejudice and flagrant anti-woman bias, to anti-Catholic bigotry and basic racism.

If Perkins was professionally invested in seeing anti-Christian persecution at every turn, he’d know that it is not “elite secularists” who are making Huckabee look scary – it is Huckabee’s own views that those with HIV should be quarantined and that “homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle” that is doing that.   

But if Perkins thinks that this sort of thing will help Huckabee with voters, Huckabee himself doesn’t seem to hold out much hope that the Religious Right elite will ever get over their reluctance to endorse him, even though he is a “true soldier for the cause”:

[Huckabee’s ads] also caught the attention of big-time figures in evangelical Christianity, many of whom have refrained from supporting Huckabee’s candidacy. This failure has puzzled and angered the governor. At the Olive Garden he spoke with bitterness about Richard Land, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. ‘‘Richard Land swoons for Fred Thompson,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t know what that’s about. For reasons I don’t fully understand, some of these Washington-based people forget why they are there. They make ‘electability’ their criterion. But I am a true soldier for the cause. If my own abandon me on the battlefield, it will have a chilling effect.’’

The following week, at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Huckabee won the roomful of grass-roots evangelicals but failed to gain any significant endorsements from evangelical leaders. ‘‘The evangelical leadership didn’t, and perhaps still doesn’t, perceive Governor Huckabee as a winner,’’ Charles Dunn, dean of the school of government at Regent University, told me. ‘‘But more and more, it appears that the leadership is not in touch with its followers.’’

This indictment extends to the founder of Dunn’s own university, Pat Robertson, who has endorsed Rudy Giuliani. It applies equally to the National Right to Life Committee, which is with Fred Thompson; and to the Rev. Bob Jones III, Jay Sekulow, head of the American Center for Law and Justice (the evangelical counterpart of the A.C.L.U.), and Paul Weyrich, the conservative activist who helped build the evangelical movement, all of whom are supporting Mitt Romney. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is still on the fence. ‘‘I just don’t understand his neutrality,’’ Huckabee told me one day at the end of October in Des Moines. ‘‘I’d be an obvious choice for his endorsement. We’re old friends. I love him and I love his wife, Shirley. I just don’t know how to explain it.’’

Huckabee Embraces Washed-Up Minutemen Leader

While Tom Tancredo continues his efforts to push the Republican presidential race further and further towards anti-immigrant extremism, it’s important to remember that the candidates who are following his lead are the ones with a chance of winning the party’s nomination. Rudy Giuliani is attacking Mitt Romney over his landscapers, and Romney is running an ad in Iowa attacking Huckabee over past support of education programs for undocumented immigrants.

Not to be outdone, Huckabee apparently borrowed his immigration platform from an anti-immigrant group, the Center for Immigration Studies. And this week he announced a surprising endorsement: Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minutemen border vigilante movement. Lest anyone forget that Huckabee is the far-right candidate who’s “not angry about it,” the former governor said at the press conference, "I'm not angry at anyone. I'm angry at the government. I'm not angry immigrants want to come here."

Huckabee and Gilchrist in IowaGilchrist, whose Minuteman Project split from Chris Simcox’s Minuteman Civil Defense Corps back in 2005, has been struggling since his own board ousted him over alleged financial mismanagement, and the extent to which he remains an influence over the fractious Minuteman phenomenon is unclear.

So while Gilchrist may give Huckabee some kind of anti-immigrant credibility among the right-wing base, it may be that Huckabee is giving a much greater boost to Gilchrist. Huckabee, whose “nice guy” persona contrasts starkly with the armed-and-dangerous image of the Minutemen, even went out of his way to apologize for perceiving the vigilantes as fringe activists:

"There are times when I, probably in the early days of the Minuteman, I thought, 'What are these guys doing . . . what are they about?' " he told Gilchrist during their press conference in Iowa. "I confess, I owe you an apology for even questioning why in the world you guys would do it. As all of us have seen, the federal government has failed to secure the borders -- they failed to bring a policy that is good for everybody involved."

With such generous pandering in play in this election cycle, anti-immigrant activists and groups are likely to stick around. Indeed, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (like the Center for Immigration Studies, part of John Tanton’s network of anti-immigrant “grassroots” groups) is planning to bring right-wing radio talkers to Iowa just days before the caucuses, as the group releases a report purporting to show “rapidly escalating costs resulting from illegal immigration” in the overwhelmingly white state.

Handily, the Southern Poverty Law Center has just published an article on FAIR’s connections to racist hate groups. Now, if we could only get it into the hands of Republican presidential candidates …

(Image from Noam Scheiber at The New Republic.)

Keyes Gets Some Love

Overcoming past slights, Alan Keyes will be participating in the the upcoming The Des Moines Register Presidential Debate: "Confirmed candidates for the Republican debate on Wednesday, December 12 are: Ambassador Alan Keyes; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Rep. Duncan Hunter; Arizona Sen. John McCain; Texas Rep. Ron Paul; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo; and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson."

Huckabee Consistent When Convenient

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee recently took a shot at rival Mitt Romney for having changed his political positions:"I think people should judge Mitt Romney on his record. Is he consistent? Does he say and believe the things now that he said and believed before? That's what ought to be the criteria.” When confronted over the weekend by his 1992 comments about people infected with HIV calling on the federal government to “take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague,” Huckabee said, "The one thing I feel like is important to note is that you stick by what you said" and that while he might say things differently today, “I don’t run from it, don’t recant from it.” That concern about consistency apparently didn’t extend to his much more recent position on federal government policy toward Cuba. In fact, it only took a couple of hours for him to reverse course when it looked like his previous position might cost him some votes, according to a Miami Herald story about the GOP candidate debate hosted by television network Univisión:
Although the candidates kept it polite on stage, Fred Thompson's campaign circulated press clippings from 2002 in which Huckabee called for an end to the trade embargo with Cuba. In a letter to President Bush, Huckabee wrote at the time: ``U.S. policy on Cuba has not accomplished its stated goal of toppling the Castro regime and instead has provided Castro with a convenient excuse for his own failed system of government.'' That stance is bound to rile many Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade, who believe that the embargo helps undermine Fidel Castro's repressive regime. Huckabee is certain to face questions about the embargo at a Monday morning press conference in Miami, where he is expecting an endorsement from Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, one of the most prominent Cuban-American Republicans in the state. Caught off guard, Huckabee's campaign said two hours after the debate that he had since changed his position on the embargo after consulting with Cuban-American leaders. ''He's committed to vetoing any legislation that lifts sanctions on Cuba,'' said Huckabee spokeswoman Alice Stewart.

Playing the Victim

Concerned Women for America’s Janice Shaw Crouse comments on Mitt Romney's "faith" speech, saying "The hostility and distrust of Evangelicals far exceeds that faced by the Mormons," while Gary Cass, Chairman and CEO of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, calls on Romney to "renounce the historic Mormon hostility to Christianity."

Brand Newt

Newt Gingrich has descended upon the Iowa caucuses again, promoting a “Platform of the American People” –and, incredibly, raising the specter of running for vice president:

The timing of his appearances a month before the Jan. 3 Iowa presidential caucuses is leading political observers to suspect he's angling to be on the short list of running-mates for former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or whoever is the Republican nominee. …

The former House speaker who flirted with a Republican presidential nomination run earlier this year said in a C-SPAN interview on Sunday that he might accept being the presidential nominee's running mate if offered.

"Depending on the circumstances, I'd be honored to be considered and under some circumstances, I'd probably feel compelled to say 'yes,' " said Mr. Gingrich, who says he will work until this summer's presidential nominating conventions "to get both parties to adopt a unity platform on a handful of things they could enact in the first 90 days of 2009."

It was just two months ago that Gingrich’s incipient presidential run was mercifully laid to rest, but some on the Right are apparently holding out hope that the former House speaker will save them, perhaps fondly recalling the “Contract with America” that he put together shortly before the Republicans took control of the House in 1995 and that served as a right-wing rallying cry after the elections.

Of course, a lot has happened since 1995. Gingrich quickly established his lack of popularity—within two years, his favorability rating was at 15 percent. His skills as a political strategist were put to the test as he pursued the impeachment of Bill Clinton in the run up to the 1998 elections, which resulted in a devastating loss for Republicans and his stepping down from leadership. Many Americans no doubt remember the hypocrisy of Gingrich prosecuting Clinton for sexual indiscretion while he himself was having an affair.

Gingrich was a key figure in creating the era of highly-polarized politics, but today he is branding himself, ironically, as a seeker of common ground, launching a campaign earlier this year of platitudes (“Real change requires real change,” etc.). Now, the Right is looking to him as its “ideas man,” gushing over his “intellectual heft.” “Newt Gingrich is the intellectual cornerstone of our modern conservative movement," said the American Conservative Union’s William Lauderback at this year’s CPAC.

While such a reputation on the Right may be hard to believe, it may ultimately doom his vice-presidential aspirations; ACU’s David Keene warns that Gingrich’s “articulateness and willingness to speak out on virtually every issue” would put candidates at risk of being “upstag[ed]” by him. That would indeed be embarrassing.

In any event, we’re sure Gingrich is enjoying all the attention, and it brings to mind the words of longtime Gingrich ally Matt Towery after Gingrich announced he wouldn’t seek the presidency. "The question is, around Washington: Was it a scam?”

Romney Pulling a Reverse JFK?

After months of dithering about whether to make a major speech about his Mormon faith, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney is scheduled to address “Faith in America” at the George H. W. Bush presidential library Thursday night. John F. Kennedy’s famous speech (video | transcript) to protestant ministers in Houston is often cited as the precedent. But Romney’s no J.F.K. and this will have to be a much different speech. Kennedy was the Democratic nominee pledging to Americans his support for “absolute” separation of church and state, promising that his Catholicism would not dictate his policy positions, and urging Americans to rise above religious intolerance and promote an ideal of brotherhood. Romney is in a dramatically different situation. He’s in a heated primary race, losing conservative evangelical Christian voters to Mike Huckabee, and walking a tightrope. He can’t make JFK’s appeal to church-state separation, because he’s trying to get support from people who think church-state separation is, in Pat Robertson’s phrase, a “lie of the left.” Ditto for an appeal to religious tolerance, not a high priority for the “Christian nation” crowd. So Romney’s more likely to try to convince Religious Right voters that they should care less about the theology of Mormonism and more about his pledge to support Religious Right policy priorities down the line: criminalization of abortion, opposition to equality for gay people, a dismantling of the wall separating church and state -- and judges who agree. That’s been enough to win the support of some high-profile Religious Right leaders, including Paul Weyrich, Lou Sheldon and Jay Sekulow. But as Huckabee surges, Romney finds himself in a bit of a box, partly of his own making. Given the power of Religious Right voters in the GOP primary, and the de facto religious test many of them apply to the presidency, Romney has stressed the importance of electing a person of faith. But when he has tried to assure Religious Right voters that he is a follower of Christ, he has drawn stern warnings from people like the Southern Baptists’ Richard Land, because many evangelicals view Mormonism as a cult. According to Pew polls, more than a third of white evangelicals, and more than 4 in 10 of evangelicals who attend church weekly, say they’re less likely to vote for a candidate who is Mormon. Says Land, “When he goes around and says Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, he ticks off at least half the evangelicals.” Mike Huckabee, in many ways the dream candidate for Religious Right voters, isn’t trying to make things any easier for Romney. While deflecting opportunities to comment directly on whether or not Mormons are Christians, Huckabee has encouraged others to ask Romney. “If we’re going to ask me about my faith, let’s ask all the candidates about theirs,” he suggests. “Now as you noticed, I’m not hesitant or reluctant to talk about mine.” Of course, the whole conversation tells us how far the Religious Right and its GOP allies are from the vision espoused by John F. Kennedy. In October, a prominent Dallas minister Robert Jeffress, speaking of Romney, said, “It’s a little hypocritical for the last eight years to be talking about how important it is for us to elect a Christian president and then turn around and endorse a non-Christian,” he said. “Christian conservatives are going to have to decide whether having a Christian president is really important or not.” The Religious Right’s long public war on church-state separation and religious pluralism has been cheered on by Republican officials as long as it has been a weapon against Democratic candidates. But it’s not as much fun for them when the target is one of the GOP’s top contenders.

Huckabee: The Squeaky Wheel

On the day before Mitt Romney is scheduled to deliver his "Faith in America" speech in order to try and quell concerns about his Mormon faith among evangelical voters heading into the Republican primaries, Mike Huckabee complains to Ross Douthat in an interview in GQ that he has been receiving more scrutiny about his religion than anyone:
Generally speaking, do you think it’s fair for people to take a candidate’s theological convictions into consideration at the polling place? As long as everyone gets the same scrutiny. That’s what I don’t think is fair: I’ve been given an unusual level of scrutiny. No candidate gets quizzed to the depth that I do about faith. Really? Even Mitt Romney? He hasn’t gotten nearly as much for his Mormonism as I have for being a Baptist. I mean, I’ve never heard the kind of interviews with him that I got from Bill O’Reilly or Wolf Blitzer. No one’s just kept pressing and pressing and going into the details of his doctrine. Not that I’ve heard.
Of course, Romney isn't running as a "Christian Leader" in ads proclaiming that his "faith doesn't just influence me, it really defines me" - Huckabee is. In fact, Huckabee's entire campaign to this point has hinged on his ability to convince evangelical voters that he is the only candidate who is running "not as one who comes to you but as one who comes from you," as he proudly declared at the Values Voter Debate. Huckabee is so much in tune with these activists and leaders that he has even adopted their favorite tactic: playing the victim. On top of that, he claims to share the grassroots activists' confusion and dismay about why the Religious Right's various leaders won't rally behind the candidate who is most openly and consistently committed to their right-wing agenda - him:
[I]sn’t Robertson’s endorsement [of Giuliani] strange? I mean, you could say that pro-lifers are finally on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade—you’re just one Supreme Court justice away—but there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency coming from the movement. What’s going on? Now, that’s a question I can’t answer. It seems that the leaders of the past, those who have been looked to as the bell cows of the movement, are completely out of step with their own followers lately. But if you talk about the people in the rank and file, there’s not any confusion at all. The people haven’t abandoned their principles. It’s almost like that classic cartoon where the guy runs up and says, “Did you see where everybody went? I’m their leader and I need to know who they are.” That’s kind of what’s happening. When I win 51 percent of the vote in the Washington Values Voters poll and 63 percent of the one in Ft. Lauderdale, and the next closest candidate to me has 12 percent, nobody says, Hmm, those voters look like they’re all over the place. They’re not all over the place at all. They have it pretty well figured out. What do you think the leaders are thinking? They’re thinking in terms of political expediency and not in terms of the principles that supposedly got them involved in the movement to begin with. It’s kind of like if the NRA suddenly started saying, “Well, you know, guns are important, but what we really care about is global warming.” Nobody would take them seriously, because they would have lost their core purpose.
Despite all of his complaining, Huckabee has been racking up endorsements from lesser known figures left and right lately - and these smaller endorsements might just be about to pay off big time:

Huckabee now is aiming for his next big score: an endorsement from Dr. James Dobson, the king of Christian radio. Huckabee is working it hard – and nearing his goal. In Iowa, a group of pastors gathered in private to hear the Huckabee message and a cheerleading speech by Tim LaHaye, evangelist and author of the “Left Behind” series, who is one of Dobson’s oldest friends and allies. The Dobson camp wouldn’t comment, but others I have talked to in the movement said “Doctor Dobson” is likely to come aboard soon. Rumors flew a month ago that an endorsement was imminent – and it never happened. Now it looks like it will. “Dobson isn’t eager to do it, he’d rather hang back, but Huckabee’s campaign impresses a lot of people around him (Dobson),” said a source with ties to both camps.

'Patriot Pastors' ... for Huckabee?

Rick Scarborough, a pioneer in organizing churches around partisan politics, has seen his national stature rise dramatically in the last few years—the Texas ex-pastor even starred on CNN’s “God’s Warriors” series—but he’s also faced some setbacks. His “Patriot Pastors” strategy was dealt a blow last November when voters in South Dakota rejected an abortion ban and Missourians voted in favor of embryonic stem cell research, despite non-stop church-based organizing by Scarborough in both states up to Election Day. He also discovered the fact, known by most other political advocacy groups, that full-time lobbying or organizing for or against legislation is not tax-deductible—a sad day for him.

And his latest “Patriot Pastors” campaign—the ambitious70 Weeks to Save America” tour that was to culminate on Election Day 2008—has apparently suffered from a lack of media coverage, spotty participation, and finally abandonment by Scarborough’s partner, Alan Keyes, who is running for president again. “Needless to say, this created a serious reevaluation of our whole program to register voters and to educate Christians through our Seventy Week campaign,” wrote Scarborough, who announced that sparser church events would be “augment[ed]” by voter registration drives and rallies at state capitols, “followed by an all out effort to move Values Voters to vote their values on Election Day '08.”

But sometimes opportunity knocks. Joining Randy Brinson, head of the embattled Christian Coalition of Alabama as well as a voter-registration outfit, Scarborough is bringing his “Patriot Pastors” act to the Iowa caucuses:

Beginning December 6, Vision America will be joining forces with in an effort to mobilize thousands of Values Voters all over Iowa as we barnstorm the state for ten days. We have been offered the use of a bus that has been especially designed for rallies, complete with a roll out stage, satellites on the roof to connect with the worldwide media, loud speakers and spotlights.

We will be working with the Iowa Family Policy Institute as well as the Iowa Christian Alliance, two very aggressive and effective pro-family organizations. Our goal is to host three rallies a day as we crisscross the state, registering thousands of voters and mobilizing tens of thousands to vote their values during the Iowa caucuses in January.

"Fox News," "US News and World Report," and other national media have expressed interest in covering this groundbreaking event as we travel the length and breadth of this important state.

Scarborough’s “One Day Crusades” this year have so far been focused on next year’s general election. Why the sudden interest in the Republican presidential primary? Well, Scarborough has heartily endorsed his former seminary classmate, Mike Huckabee, as has Brinson. And media are reporting that Huckabee has a shot of winning the Iowa caucus.

While Scarborough’s help may or may not push Huckabee over the edge in Iowa, the activist is still hedging his bets. After all, Rudy Giuliani still leads in national polls, and some have speculated that Huckabee’s surge ultimately benefits Giuliani by siphoning off far-right support for Mitt Romney. Scarborough has publicly waffled over whether he would support Giuliani were he nominated, but while he’s said Giuliani’s stance on abortion is unacceptable, he’s also been giving himself some wiggle room. Radical Islam, he said recently, is “the ultimate life issue."

Anti-Abortion Movement Split Spills onto Presidential Race

The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the reappearance of a somewhat rusty tactic in the anti-abortion movement’s tool belt: attempts to pass a “Human Life Amendment” to several state constitutions, which would purportedly grant full “personhood” rights beginning at conception. Such an end-run would circumvent a protracted political debate—which they could lose, as they did when South Dakota voters rejected an abortion ban last year—and likely end up in federal court, where activists hope new right-wing Supreme Court justices will take the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the major national religious-right groups have preferred a more incremental strategy of advancing less-sweeping restrictions and promoting Republican politicians who promise to appoint anti-abortion judges, leaving absolutist activists out in the cold, as the Times notes:

For the most part, the campaigns are run by local activists, with little support or funding from big national antiabortion groups. Similar efforts have failed in the past: Proponents in Michigan could not collect enough signatures to put a personhood measure on the ballot in 2006. The Georgia proposal stalled in the Legislature this year.

Indeed, Clarke Forsythe and Denise Burke of Americans United for Life—a legal group active since the 1970s—published an article in National Review today calling the HLA “a losing move for the pro-life movement.” While AUL is hardly an influential group in this decade, its anti-HLA commentary recalls the anti-abortion movement’s in-fighting in the 1980s and 1990s over militant clinic protests (and the occasional murder of doctors). Although AUL was happy to represent militant activist Joseph Scheidler and his Pro-Life Action League in court, at the same time it pooh-poohed the frenzied “Summer of Mercy” protest in Wichita in 1991. “[I]t is better to show the public that [the abortion provider’s] practices are unlawful than to engage in tactics that attract attention to the unlawfulness of pro-lifers,” cautioned AUL’s president.

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Mitt Romney Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Monday 09/12/2011, 5:33pm
Tim Pawlenty endorses Mitt Romney while Bobby Jindal is set to endorse Rick Perry. Hey, what do you know?  The Religious Right is mobilizing pastors to get active in the 2012 elections. On a related note, a coalition of anti-choice groups are mobilizing to register voters. James Dobson suffered several broken bones in a horse-riding accident. The man charged with helping Lisa Miller to flee the country wants his statements quashed and his trial moved out of Vermont. MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 09/12/2011, 1:44pm
Last month we noted that Michele Bachmann was headlining a fundraising event for the Florida Family Policy Council where she received the organization's William Wilberforce Award. But just because the FFPC thinks Bachmann is a hero for her willingness to stand "firm for principles of life, marriage or family in the face of opposition," that apparently doesn't translate into support for her presidential campaign as FFPC president John Stemberger is announcing his pending support for Rick Perry because Bachmann is just not a realistic or viable candidate ... and Mitt Romney... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 09/09/2011, 5:32pm
Peter Montgomery @ Huffington Post: Lasting Harm, Lingering Hope. Towleroad: Tennessee HS Students Threatened with Suspension for Trying to Start Gay-Straight Alliance. Igor Volsky @ Think Progress LGBT: North Carolina Lawmaker: ‘We Need To Reach Out To Gays, Get Them To Change Their Lifestyle.’ Rachel Tabachnick @ Talk To Action: C. Peter Wagner's Response to Increased Exposure of the New Apostolic Reformation. Warren Throckmorton: Christian Post blog removed over reaction to article on Mitt Romney; Can Romney get fair coverage from Christian... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 09/07/2011, 5:32pm
Michele Bachmann spoke at the Florida Family Policy Council awards banquet last night where she received the organization's "William Wilberforce Award." Rick Joyner says "the Obama’s extravagant lifestyle at the expense of taxpayers is far out of bounds, especially with the hard times so many are going through now." NOM continues to lose in its effort to flout disclosure laws. Religious Right activists are threatening to sue if they are prevented from praying at Ground Zero on 9/10, even though they have no reason to think that they will be... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 09/07/2011, 11:00am
Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas is an anti-gay and anti-Muslim pastor who has generated attention in the past by going on the attack against Mitt Romney, urging Christians not to vote for him because of his Mormon faith and and for admitting that he'd vote for an incompetent Christian over a competent non-Christian if the two were running against one another. But I expect that we'll be hearing a lot more about Jeffress considering that he is about to kick off a sermon series called "Twilight's Last Gleeming," beginning on 9/11, proclaiming that America is doomed... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 08/24/2011, 5:50pm
Florida school teacher Jerry Buell has been reinstated after posting anti-gay marriage remarks on his Facebook page. But that probably won't be the end of the Religious Right's crusade about it. Tony Perkins says the Religious Right would be pretty happy with any of the GOP frontrunners. I highly doubt that is true regarding Mitt Romney. Rick Perry has signed the Susan B. Anthony's anti-choice pledge. Another day, another piece dismissing dominionism devoid of any research whatsoever. The defamation claim against John Stemberger over statements he made while... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 08/17/2011, 10:37am
Pamela Geller has a second column out today attacking Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his ties to the Aga Khan, the leader of the Ismaili sect of Shiite Islam, and to one of Geller’s favorite targets, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Anti-Muslim activists have long viewed Norquist as one of the principal architects of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the conservative movement and American society at large because of his work to make the political Right more inclusive of Muslim-Americans. Geller writes today in her WorldNetDaily column that she doesn’t “want to see a... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 08/15/2011, 5:54pm
Ben @ PFAW Blog: Koch Brothers Sink to a New Low to Undermine Public Education. Justin Elliot @ Salon: Shariah foes seize on Perry's ties to Muslims. Andy Birkey @ Minnesota Independent: Bachmann dodges questions on anti-gay record. Rachel Tabachnick @ Talk To Action: Disinformation and Misinformation - Becoming Educated About the New Apostolic Reformation. Michelle Goldberg @ The Daily Beast: A Christian Plot for Domination. Andy Kopsa @ Westword: Abstinence-only funding was refused, but that didn't stop a state school-board... MORE >