Mitt Romney

Dobson Won’t Support a Mormon or Launch His Own Campaign

Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery gave a wide ranging interview to The Denver Post's PoliticsWest where, among other things, he dismissed the notion that the Religious Right was on the verge of a meltdown:

It’s typical of what we see during election cycles. I remember as far back as 1988 when Pat Robertson ran for president and failed. There were wide predictions of a crackup; of the Moral Majority back then, of evangelicals. Then, of course, the Christian Coalition immediately rose up and became very strong. When that organization faded, there were another spate of stories about the crackup of evangelical Christians as an influence in the public square …  [O]bviously, there was a big stick swung by social conservatives in the 2004 election. The fact that George Bush won in Ohio, that very key state, because a lot of people turned out for the marriage amendment in that particular state, was deemed to be significant. Now, we’re into another cycle and the normal predictions of the crackup of evangelicalism is occurring. One of the phenomenon that gives rise to that, of course, is the fact that there is no single conservative candidate who has enough marbles for everybody in the conservative movement to want to play with. Everybody’s lacking in something. Partially, this is just the way it is. People will have to figure it out, who to support. So there’s some unsettledness. But I’d hardly call that a crack-up.

Minnery, like FRC’s Tony Perkins, also dismissed Giuliani’s pledge to nominate only “strict constructionist” judges as little more than a “politician’s promise,” and voiced his concerns about Giuliani’s past and personal life:   

His being married three times. Even the fact that he has shown up on Saturday Night Live in drag. I just cringe at the thought of the TV commercials that will be forthcoming from independent leftist organizations, 527s, if Giuliani becomes the nominee. I think very few people know that he tromped across the stage in drag. I think that that might be funny in New York. That might be funny for the Saturday Night Live audience. But for middle America, I do not think that will be funny … He has two male gay friends that he moved in with after his second divorce. And that was a messy affair. And just knowing how degrading politics is, I believe that there’ll be some kind of a PAC or 527 that will engineer a lot of negative advertising out of those events, designed specifically to keep conservative Christian people from pulling the lever for him.

But Minnery doesn’t seem to think this will be enough to keep committed right-wing voters at home on Election Day, saying that “a lot of people on our side would probably swallow hard and vote for the more conservative of the two major party candidates.” As for the possibility that James Dobson might end up endorsing Mitt Romney, Minnery called it “doubtful,” citing “the tremendous difference in theological views.”

But just because Dobson isn’t happy with any of the current GOP candidates doesn’t mean he has any plans to launch his own presidential campaign:

[Dobson] likes to be in charge … He’s a leader of an organization here. He’s been in charge of it and developed it. A president is in charge of one-third of the federal government and has to deal with so many different people. I think it would be a very frustrating job for someone, who’s an organization leader, to deal with. Besides, Dr. Dobson represents evangelical Christians. I don’t think that constituency is enough to elect somebody president, although it’s an important constituency within one of the two major parties.

The other problem is that there would be too many death threats against him; his wife would say, “'Jim, if you get into that, I’ll kill you.'”

Besides that, he’s 71 years old. And, in addition to that, he doesn’t want to do it.

For that, we can all be thankful. 

National Right to Life Endorsement of Thompson Called Selling Out

Rounding out a spate of recent right-wing endorsements of Republican presidential candidates, Fred Thompson has secured the support of the National Right to Life Committee. While not as far-fetched as Pat Robertson’s Giuliani endorsement, the pairing ought to raise some eyebrows, and not just because of Thompson’s rejection of major NRLC priorities such as the Human Life Amendment and federal intervention in Terri Schiavo’s case, or the candidate’s warning that a national abortion ban could lead to putting girls in prison, a notion Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America called “insulting.”

In his cornpone video message to NRLC’s annual convention last summer, Thompson played up his kinship with the group and his “100 percent” anti-abortion record in the Senate, but Thompson’s signature accomplishment in Congress was passage of campaign-finance reform, a bill hated by anti-abortion groups (as John McCain discovered) and arguably by no one more than NRLC.

In fact, Thompson’s campaign-finance hearings in the late 1990s specifically targeted NRLC, subpoenaing its and other groups’ financial records in search of evidence of electioneering. As recently as 2003, Thompson wrote an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the law’s regulation of “sham issue advocacy by non-party groups”—a point decided by the Court this year, in favor of “sham issue advocacy,” in a case involving NRLC affiliate Wisconsin Right to Life. (NRLC’s continuing disdain for campaign-finance regulation is also implied by its neglect to mention in its press release that the endorsement is actually by NRLC’s affiliated PAC.)

The odd endorsement led conservative-movement stalwart Paul Weyrich to suggest that the group had been bought off. "I think in all probability the Thompson people were engaged with the National Right to Life people in financial dealing," he said.

Does Dobson Heart Huckabee?

If this turns out to be true, it’ll likely do significant damage to Mitt Romney’s effort to secure the GOP nomination by pandering himself into the Right’s good graces – via The American Spectator’s “Washington Prowler”:

Dr. James Dobson, who has largely been made irrelevant to the 2008 Republican presidential race, has apparently found his man, and according to an adviser, is ready to change the landscape of the Republican nomination race.

"He is the leader of the evangelical and social conservative movement in America, and he's going to reassert that position and leave no doubt that he's in charge," says the adviser based in Colorado.

Sources close to Dobson say that within the next ten days he is coordinating an endorsement plan with the presidential campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. According to a Huckabee insider in Iowa, the event would be staged in that state at a rally, followed by a bus tour across the state, and an appearance by Huckabee on Dobson's radio show, which is heard nationally.

Dobson's endorsement, according to the Huckabee source, could mean millions in fundraising to the campaign, allowing it to compete at the same level with the top tier candidates Huckabee has been inching toward in the polls after a series of strong debate and campaign appearances.

Huckabee has already secured a handful of right-wing endorsements; enough to mobilize those who oppose him to try and sink his nomination. So this will be a real test of Dobson’s influence to see if he can get other leaders in the movement to back Huckabee and, more importantly, to see if they possess enough influence to propel Huckabee into top tier and help him overtake the current frontrunners.

Robertson to Endorse Giuliani?

That is what the Politico and the Washington Post are reporting:

Pat Robertson, one of the most influential figures in the social conservative movement, will announce his support for Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid this morning in Washington, D.C., according to sources familiar with the decision.

Robertson's support was coveted by several of the leading Republican candidates and provides Giuliani with a major boost as the former New York City mayor seeks to convince social conservatives that, despite his positions on abortion and gay rights, he is an acceptable choice as the GOP nominee.

It also slows any momentum for Mitt Romney within the social conservative movement. Romney had recently secured the backing of conservative stalwarts Paul Weyrich and Bob Jones III -- endorsements that seemed to strengthen his bid to become the electable conservative alternative to Giuliani. Romney had made no secret of his desire for Robertson's endorsement and has to be disappointed this morning.

The other major effect of Robertson's support for Giuliani is that it will quiet talk in social conservative circles that nominating Giuliani would lead "values voters" to abandon the Republican Party. The stamp of approval from Robertson should assuage the doubts of many (although certainly not all) of the rank-and-file social conservatives.

Of course, back in 1992, Robertson addressed the Republican National Convention where he attacked Bill Clinton for his support for reproductive choice, saying the Right could not allow America to be run by a man who “wants to give your 13-year-old daughter the choice without your consent to destroy the life of her unborn baby” and was running on a platform that “never once mentions the name of God:” 

Since I have come to Houston, I have been asked repeatedly to define traditional values. I say very simply, to me and to most Republicans, traditional values start with faith in Almighty God … When Bill Clinton talks about family values, I don't believe he's talking about either families or values. …The campaign before us is not just a campaign for an office, but for the destiny of America. We will not rest until there is a new birth of freedom in America … until we restore the greatness of America through moral strength.

Apparently, times have changed.

Meanwhile, Sam Brownback will reportedly endorse John McCain:

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), meanwhile, plans to announce his surprise endorsement of former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president on Wednesday, a campaign official told Politico.

The endorsement is to be announced in Dubuque, Iowa.

The alliance gives McCain — once a front-runner, now struggling — a crucial bridge to social conservatives, an important constituency that has remained suspicious of him despite his opposition to abortion.

Last month, Family Reseach Council President Tony Perkins was predicting that their Values Voter Summit would help the Right coalesce and narrow the field, if only by achieving agreement not to support Giuliani.  That turned out not to be the case, and if these two announcements are any indication, the Right’s hopes of unifying behind a single candidate are fading fast. 

Romney Pandering Himself Right Into a Corner

Mitt Romney continues to pick up endorsements and support from various right-wing leaders – the most recent being Paul Weyrich – and is working hard to establish himself as the candidate of choice for those who just cannot stomach the idea of supporting Rudy Giuliani.   In fact, that seems to be the primary reason Weyrich is even backing Romney: “I’m not for Giuliani. I want to try to stop him from getting the nomination.”  

But while he is slowly winning over the leaders of the right-wing establishment, the rank and file voters are still leery of, if not openly hostile to, his Mormon faith.  As Salon reported yesterday:

The Romney campaign, which has aggressively courted religious voters, is well aware of the problem. Romney has found himself, by dint of his personal faith, in the middle of a long-running competition between two rival evangelical faiths, each claiming the true word of God in the fight for converts. "It's Pepsi vs. Coke," said one Romney campaign aide, describing the differences between evangelical Protestants and Mormons. "But sometimes Pepsi and Coke have to team up to stop Starbucks from taking over the market." Starbucks, of course, represents secular America, which favors gay marriage, legal abortion and the minimization of religion in public life.

Romney, like Giuliani, appears to hope that he can win over these voters by pledging to nominate right-wing ideologues to the Supreme Court, which is just what he promised when speaking yesterday before the Nova Southeastern University Law School’s chapter of the Federalist Society: 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking in Davie, said his commitment to appointing conservative judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would help him correct the nation's direction.

To reinforce this pledge, the Romney campaign even trotted out two members of his Advisory Committee on the Constitution and the Courts to make the case for him in the pages of The National Review:

As the addition of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to the Supreme Court has demonstrated, judicial appointments can be among a president’s most lasting legacies. The judges a president appoints will typically serve well beyond his term of office, interpreting our laws and Constitution for decades to follow. The next president may have the opportunity to appoint at least one justice to the Supreme Court and, like any new administration, will surely face a large number of courts-of-appeal and district-court vacancies.

For that reason, it is critically important to consider what type of individual a presidential candidate would nominate to the bench. We are confident that if elected as president, Governor Romney would appoint individuals to the federal courts who respect the appropriate role of the judiciary in our democratic system.

But as rival Fred Thompson is pointing out, like many of Romney’s pledges, his record on this point doesn’t match his current rhetoric:

Of the 36 lawyers Romney nominated, 23 were registered Democrats or independents who donated to Democratic candidates or voted in Democratic primaries, according to a Boston Globe analysis that was circulated by rival Fred Thompson. Two appointees supported expanding gay rights.

As we noted earlier, such inconsistencies do not appear to be of much concern to many on the Right, because such flip-flopping only makes Romney more beholden to them – or, as Weyrich put it:

I think [Romney] is somebody who is rushing toward the movement trying to present himself as a conservative and in some ways it's more useful to have somebody like that.

The Right Demands Post Flip-Flop Consistency

In early October, Ann Coulter appeared on "Hannity & Colmes" and stated that she has no problem with politicians "flip-flopping" on issues, provided they do so in the right direction:
COLMES: Mitt Romney, the other possible contender, flip-flopped on every issue, has flip-flopped on illegals, flip-flopped on gays... COULTER: He's flipping in my direction. COLMES: But he's flip-flopped. He's changed his position. It depends on what office he's running for in terms of what he says. COULTER: Have I ever said I'm against flip-floppers? ... I just want them to flop in my direction.
With Mitt Romney working to position himself as a consensus candidate for the various right-wing leaders who cannot make up their minds about who to support but know that they will not accept Giuliani, it seems as if this mentality is starting to gain traction:

But [Giuliani's] position on abortion seems to have benefited Mr. Romney, whose new, pro-life position has helped him with religious conservatives. Some say they fear Mr. Giuliani’s pro-choice stance enough to overlook Mr. Romney’s late-in-life conversion.

“If they come around to seeing things our way the last thing we should do, I think, is throw stones at them,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an influential social conservative group. But, he warned, “For whatever reason, the positions Governor Romney has arrived at are his positions, and if he is to remain politically viable in any way, he will have to maintain those positions.”

The latter part of Perkins' statement pretty well sums up Romney's current predicament in that the only reason he is even being considered a legitimate candidate by the Right is because he has done a 180 degree turn away from his record in Massachusetts and blatantly pandered to their agenda. And many on the Right seem perfectly willing to overlook that, provided that Romney remains committed to the post flip-flop positions he now claims to hold. It must be difficult to run for President when the people you have been pandering to suddenly start demanding consistency and accountability.

Romney Faith Impediment to 'Christian Nation' Vision?

In the past, Mitt Romney has blamed the media (along with those “who would like to establish a religion of secularism in this country to replace all others”) for raising questions about whether his Mormonism will hurt his electoral chances—a claim that doesn’t hold water, as we pointed out. A Bloomberg article today makes clear that he might start with his own friends:

“I told him, you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, ‘I am a Christian just like you,’” said Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina, which is scheduled to hold the first primary among the Southern states. “If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the differences.”

So it should be no surprise to see those on the Religious Right who are not on Romney's side kicking up dust. Richard Land, who leans toward Fred Thompson, said Romney is “picking a fight” when he states a basic tenet of his beliefs. “When he goes around and says Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, he ticks off at least half the evangelicals. He's picking a fight he's going to lose,” Land said. In Max Blumenthal’s entertaining video report on the Values Voter Summit, Huckabee booster Janet Folger is heard excitedly denouncing Romney: “I mean take a look at really what he believes. He believes that Jesus Christ is Satan’s brother—are you kidding me?”

“Mitt Romney … is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult,” one prominent Dallas pastor said earlier this month. “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.”

But if Romney can convince the Religious Right that he’ll fight for their political causes, why does it matter what else he believes?

One answer to that is provided by Roy Moore, a staunch proponent of government endorsement of sectarian religion:

“We need more injection of an understanding of God in our political life,” said Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and a potential third-party, anti- abortion presidential candidate. “I am looking for a candidate that understands that this nation is established on a particular God.”

The GOP's Hillary Primary

Mitt Romney may have officially “won” the straw poll at the Values Voter Summit; Mike Huckabee may have been the crowd favorite; and what to do about Rudy Giuliani may have been the biggest question mark; but of all the presidential candidates, the one most talked about at the right-wing conference was Hillary Clinton. “Bill Clinton,” Tom Tancredo warned, is “now measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.” Rep. Jean Schmidt urged Giuliani rejectionists to realize “how important it is that we stand behind whatever candidate comes out that will be her rival, and stand behind that person, whether we agree with all their opinions and values or not. Because if we don’t, you will have that woman in power.”

Libertarian journalism David Weigel, moonlighting at the paleoconservative American Conservative magazine, notes that the visceral hatred many on the Right have for Sen. Clinton could be the only thing that holds the movement and the GOP together, at least in the hopes of Republican strategists:

It’s a balmy, beer-drinking evening in the middle of August, and the conservatives trickling in to a meeting of the Robert A. Taft Club can’t enjoy it. They’re mostly under-30 Washington professionals, and they’re fed up with the Republican Party. They think George W. Bush’s bumbling and ideological hat-trading have reduced the conservative movement to a pitiable, piddling state. If Karl Rove stepped inside, he’d come out looking like Oscar de la Hoya after a bout gone wrong.

They settle into a debate about the future of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Panelists take turns whipping the party for its sins. “We beat them on immigration,” says Richard Viguerie, the direct-mail pioneer, “but right now, we just don’t have the strength or the resources to affect public policy the way we want to.” He beseeches the crowd to help save the movement, but that gets a muted reaction. So he steps it up: “I still think that in the short term, as many problems as we have right now, Hillary Clinton can bring conservatives back together.”

The name does the trick: soft laughter moves around the room. Keeping Hillary out of the White House is literally the only motivation some conservatives have to pull the Republican lever in 2008, especially if their party nominates a pro-choice candidate for the first time since 1976.

While many Republicans are crossing their fingers that a Clinton nomination will stir up the right-wing id into a frenzy of resentment, bringing back the anti-Clinton rhetoric of the 1990s—whether about Vince Foster or strong women—is not necessarily a recipe for victory. There will always be a core group that feeds off of even the most disgusting anti-Hillary marketing, but as Weigel points out, translating that into broader political success is another matter. GOP hatchet men started Stop Her Now and the Stop Hillary PAC to raise millions to prevent Clinton’s reelection to the Senate in 2006, but they hardly raised thousands. Even the steady stream of anti-Clinton books have fallen flat in sales.

That doesn’t mean it will stop. The Republican National Committee is already running against Clinton. We can probably expect Republican candidates, especially Giuliani, to keep taking Clinton as their de facto running mate unless and until the primaries prove otherwise, providing a foil always good for applause lines.

More on Romney's Cash-Based Momentum

Harper’s correspondent Ken Silverstein has more on Mitt Romney’s efforts to buy his way to the nomination, from the straw poll “ballot-box stuffing” supporters of struggling candidates gripe about, to contributions to South Carolina politicians via his personal PAC, to massive expenditures on consultants. Writes Silverstein:

[B]ased on filings with the Federal Election Commission, as of this summer, Romney’s campaign has employed more than a hundred different consultants, making combined payments to them of at least $11 million—roughly three times the amount spent by John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. …

Romney’s game plan in South Carolina depends on winning a large share of the social-conservative vote, which makes up at least a third, and perhaps even two fifths, of the state’s G.O.P. electorate. To that end, his PAC has also funded the Palmetto Family Council, which, according to its website, “works in the centers of influence (church, government, media, academia, and business) to present biblical principles through research, communication and networking.” Another $5,000 was delivered from Romney’s PAC to an organization sponsoring a statewide ballot initiative, passed in 2006, that added an amendment banning gay marriage to the state constitution. The PAC also sent money to South Carolina Citizens for Life ($500), South Carolina Club for Growth ($1,000), a school-choice group called South Carolinians for Responsible Government ($1,000), a Republican GOTV effort called South Carolina Victory ($2,000), and a group of conservative school-board candidates in Charleston ($2,000) called, humorously enough, “The A-Team.” (One pities the fool who might oppose them.) Moreover, the Romney campaign in June formed a national “faith and values steering committee” that includes four South Carolinians, among them a pastor, Mark White, and a Christian political activist, Dee Benedict. Both White and Benedict—whom Romney also put on the payroll as a consultant—are from upstate, the heart of South Carolina conservatism.

Among Romney’s consultants are well-known religious-right figures like Gary Marx, Jay Sekulow, and former Christian Coalition board member Drew McKissick.

Huckabee Supporters Demand a Recount

“Religious Right Divides Its Vote at Summit” was the headline of the New York Times article on the Values Voter Summit, and indeed, Mitt Romney only edged out Mike Huckabee by a few votes in the straw poll, 1595 to 1565, with other candidates trailing significantly. But that headline had to be a real disappointment for Huckabee boosters, dreaming of pushing him up from the second-tier, who believe that official tally is illegitimate because it allowed FRC members to vote online. Among actual conference-goers, Huckabee, the crowd favorite, walked away with a majority vote, besting Romney 488-99.

Janet Folger, who endorsed Huckabee soon after he won the straw poll at her Values Voter Debate, accused Romney of “ballot-box stuffing”:

Efforts to try and skew the results of the Internet poll, such as the e-mail sent by Mark DeMoss (now on the Romney campaign), complete with a link and instructions to stack it, gained Romney a .5 percent edge for his prominently announced "win." By the way, when that announcement was made following fanfare, including a drum roll, the audience (who were 5-to-1 Huckabee supporters) sat stunned. Had they announced the results of the real grass-roots activists who actually attended the event, we would have heard explosive applause instead of the sound of crickets and the clapping of a few Romney shills.

A harsh allegation, to be sure, but hardly out of character: Romney managed to win the CPAC straw poll last spring solely on the basis of students he sponsored, and he similarly paid for votes at the straw poll in South Carolina. After announcing that he was scaling back his efforts at the Ames, Iowa straw poll, Romney’s campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the best tent and the most buses to ferry Republicans to the event, presumably with their tickets paid in exchange for a vote commitment (as is common at Ames). Considering that membership to FRC Action and the code to vote in that straw poll could be purchased for a $1 donation, this latest effort was a steal. Then there’s money Romney pays to prominent right-wing figures, such as $25,000 to a company owned by Jay Sekulow, who endorsed Romney.

Alabama activist Randy Brinson, head of the state’s reconstituted Christian Coalition chapter as well as a voter mobilization effort and an ally of Huckabee, thinks it’s that kind of cash that keeps people like Tony Perkins pooh-poohing Huckabee’s prospects. From U.S. News:

[Brinson] says he believes that "gatekeepers" like Bauer, Perkins, and Dobson are more interested in Romney or Thompson because their campaigns have money to pay for consultants from the big conservative evangelical organizations, ensuring them access to the White House if either of them wins.

Perkins’ Prediction Comes True and Creates a New Dilemma

Heading into the recent Values Voter Summit, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins was careful to make clear that it was unlikely that any one candidate would emerge from the event as the Right’s candidate of choice, thus rescuing them from their current dilemma and confusion.   But he also predicted that the event would at least help narrow down the field a bit:  

“These are the influencers, these are the talkers,” Perkins said of the attendees that will take over the Washington Hilton hotel. “This could be when things start to shake out and a candidate begins to emerge with a certain level of support. I don’t think anybody’s going to walk away with a lock, but maybe one or two candidates, maybe three, will begin to take off with strong support from the base.”

The one candidate who got the biggest boost from the Summit was Mike Huckabee, who came in second place in the straw poll and was the overwhelming favorite among those in attendance – something which, oddly enough, only seems to have confused things further:

The influential social conservatives who comprise the Arlington Group met over the weekend to discuss the possibility of endorsing a presidential candidate and could not reach a consensus, according to a source familiar with the process.

Though leaders of the individual organizations may make their own endorsements, those selections "cannot be considered a blanket endorsement by the 'Religious Right,'" according to the source.

While many leaders want to endorse fan favorite Mike Huckabee, others are more hesitant. The source informed me that "the dilemma is over whether to choose the preferred candidate of their constituents or go with the pragmatic choice and risk offending our base."

According to the source, James Dobson of Focus on the Family likes Mitt Romney, Gary Bauer of American Values prefers Fred Thompson, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association likes Huckabee. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council is still on the fence, but nearing a decision.

In fact, very little has changed:  Supporting McCain or Giuliani was never much of a possibility and the right-wing leadership has always been torn between Romney, Thompson, and, to a lesser extent, Huckabee.  The only new development is that some are becoming more willing to openly back Huckabee:

He Ain't Fringy, He's My Brother

No doubt there were a handful of people scattered among the audience at the Values Voter Summit who supported Alan Keyes for president, or were at least aware that he is a candidate, so it must have ruffled one or two feathers when the M.C. boasted several times that “all 9 major Republican candidates” were speaking. Third-time GOP presidential candidate Keyes, who has appeared at two debates which the frontrunners skipped, was not invited.

Most of Keyes’s erstwhile friends have been silent, but one man has spoken out: Gordon Klingenschmitt, a.k.a. “Chaps,” the discharged Navy chaplain who has gone on tour with Keyes on Rick Scarborough’s “70 Weeks to Save America,” claiming that he was prohibited him from praying in the name of Jesus (though in reality he was discharged for violating rules against wearing his uniform at political or partisan events). “Some of you know I've endorsed Ambassador Alan Keyes for president, because I believe he's the most Christ-like candidate we have in the Republican primary,” Klingenschmitt writes.

Alan bears the political scars to prove his deep commitment to the cause of righteousness and freedom in America. Nobody can dispute his decades-long sacrifice of personal fortune and reputation to fight tirelessly beside pro-life protestors, pro-marriage families, Minutemen border guards, Ten-Commandments judges, tax-cut conservatives, strict Constitutionalists and, yes, chaplains who pray in Jesus' name.

So why did the Family Research Council, or FRC, intentionally exclude Alan Keyes from their "open invitation to all candidates, even Democrats" event this weekend in Washington, D.C.? While giving the prime-time speaking slot to Mitt Romney, FRC not only excluded Alan Keyes from the speaker's podium, even after repeated requests to include him, they didn't even list him as a choice in their straw poll. …

Was Alan's schedule already booked? No, he flew across the country from California to Washington ready to speak at FRC anytime this weekend.

Dobson Drama and Prayers for a Political Miracle in 08

The Saturday gala honoring Focus on the Family founder James Dobson started with a hint at the controversy over the announcement of Mitt Romney as the straw poll’s winner. Only the overall results had been announced to attendees earlier in the day. It was at a subsequent news conference that FRC distributed documents making clear that Huckabee won by a large margin among people who voted in person, and in the hours since Huckabee partisans were grumbling. FRC’s Chuck Donovan promised that everyone would get a detailed vote accounting as they left the event. When Dobson took the stage he claimed that the media had been telling everybody that the pro-family and pro-life movements are dying, and to the media still in attendance, said, “Welcome to the morgue.” Dobson also complained about media reports of a closed-door meeting of conservative religious leaders at which Dobson and more than 40 others pledged that if neither party nominated a pro-life candidate they would vote for a minor party candidate, kicking off weeks of controversy and infighting. Dobson said reports that the group would try to create a third party were wrong, saying he agrees with Gary Bauer that a third-party would be political suicide and would limit the ability to influence the GOP.

Contested Vote Count: Romney v Huckabee

Immediately after Tony Perkins announced the result of the FRC Action straw poll, in which Mitt Romney edged Mike Huckabee by 30 votes out of 5,775 cast, Huckabee boosters cried foul – and reporters peppered Perkins with questions about the legitimacy of the poll. Turns out that Huckabee won a majority of the votes cast in person at the Values Voter Summit, 51 percent, and Romney only took 10 percent. Some unknown number of votes were cast online by people who also attended. But other votes were cast anytime online between August and Saturday. That’s how Ron Paul showed up in third place with 865 votes even though he was picked by only 25 in-person voters. Huckabee’s clear victory in the in-person vote wasn’t much of a surprise if you experienced the rapturous reception Huckabee received on Saturday morning. Huckabee’s speech was non-stop Religious Right prime red meat and he had people cheering and hollering throughout.

Memo to <em>Time</em>: The Far Right Knows the Supreme Court Matters

Talk about bad timing! Time magazine's cover story telling Americans the Supreme Court isn't relevant to their lives appeared the very same week that every major Republican presidential candidate will appear before the right-wing leaders at the so-called "Values Voter Summit" and pledge more Supreme Court justices in the Roberts-Alito-Scalia-Thomas mold.

The premise of the article is dead wrong, as People For the American Way Foundation's Legal Director Judith E. Schaeffer made clear in her response. The Court's decisions have a huge impact on Americans' rights and liberties - and their ability to count on the courts to uphold the protections guaranteed by our Constitution. That's especially true when the President asserts his ability to ignore those protections and has too often bullied Congress into going along.

Not only is the Roberts Court creating new legal hurdles that will keep people hurt by corporate or government wrongdoing from seeking justice in the federal courts, it is tripping down the ideological path cleared by the Federalist Society to reverse many of the legal and social justice gains of the past few decades and erode Americans' legal rights and protections.

The radical right is thrilled that Bush's nominees - Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito - have joined the Court's far-right voting bloc anchored by Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. And they're keenly focused on the impact that the next president will have as additional vacancies likely occur. They see 2008 as their chance to cement a reactionary Court in place for a generation.

That's why the GOP presidential candidates are going out of their way to prove their right-wing credentials regarding the Court.

Pastor: Vote for a Christian, Not Romney

It looks as if Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress isn’t about to be won over by Religious Right efforts to rally behind Mitt Romney, at least according to the Dallas Morning News:

A prominent Dallas minister told his congregation that if they wanted to elect a Christian to the White House, Republican Mitt Romney wasn't qualified.

Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said that Mormonism is a false religion and that Mr. Romney was not a Christian.

"Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise," Dr. Jeffress said in a sermon Sept. 30. "Even though he talks about Jesus as his Lord and savior, he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is a cult."

But Dr. Jeffress said colleagues who support Mr. Romney should not confuse morality with Christianity.

"I have conservative friends who are saying, well, he believes in Jesus, we believe in Jesus, let's just hold hands and sing kumbaya," he said. "It doesn't work that way. If a person is supporting Romney, that's fine. But don't confuse him with being a Christian."

Dr. Jeffress also said Christian conservatives were compromising the values used to back presidential candidates over the past decade.

"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." 

Playing the Racist Card, Again

It seems as if Gary Marx has managed to pull himself away from his $8,000-a-month position with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to pen an action alert in his capacity as Executive Director of the Judicial Confirmation Network to urge supporters to contact their senators and demand a vote on the nomination of Leslie Southwick:

The Liberal Left led by Senator Ted Kennedy, Minority Leader Harry Reid, and People for the American Way will stop at nothing in order to keep common sense constitutionalist judges like Leslie Southwick off the bench. Ultimately, their unprecedented judicial filibusters are a backdoor political sabotage to manipulate the Senate rules. Their goal is to create a radical new precedent where for the first time in history a future Supreme Court nominee like Justice Roberts or Alito will be forced to receive 60 votes for confirmation rather than a simple and fair majority vote.

The vote on whether to filibuster Judge Southwick is likely to occur this week ... possibly as early as Wednesday. This is our last chance to make our voice heard. The time to call your Senators' offices is today!

Marx then encourages activists to take the time to read an op-ed penned by his partner at the JCN, Wendy Long - who, like Marx, serves on Romney’s National Faith and Values Steering Committee – in which she trots out the Right’s standard claim that those who raise concerns about Southwick’s judicial record and philosophy are really just calling Southwick a racist:

Just when you thought "white male in the South" didn't equal "presumptive racist," a disgusting spectacle with that familiar theme is unfolding in the United States Senate.

[Senator Richard] Durbin is doing essentially what [Duke Prosecutor Mike] Nifong and [Al] Sharpton did: attacking someone else as a racist in order to advance his own political agenda. Never mind the facts, never mind the law, just play the race card against a white man in the south and you know you have a good chance to bring him down.

It seems that whenever anyone dares to oppose any of President Bush’s judicial nominees, the Right sees some nefarious ulterior motive at work – and that is how they manage to convince themselves that opposition to Southwick stems not from concerns about his record but from some sort of deep-seeded hatred of Southern white males … the same way they said opposition to Miguel Estrada was really due to anti-Latino prejudice … and opposition to Priscilla Owen was the result of flagrant anti-woman bias … and opposition to William Pryor was actually due to anti-Catholic bigotry … and opposition to Janice Rogers Brown was in actuality rooted in racism.    

Backing Romney By Default

Mark DeMoss, a conservative Christian publicist, is generating a lot of news with his open letter sent to some 150 right-wing leaders urging them to rally behind Mitt Romney for the sole purpose of denying Rudy Giuliani the Republican presidential nomination.  

DeMoss has been a supporter of Romney for months, organizing a meeting between the candidate and various right-wing leaders, and serving as a member of his Faith and Values Steering Committee.   Given all the talk lately of right-wing leaders and activists bolting the GOP should Giuliani win the nomination, DeMoss apparently sensed an opportunity to pitch his candidate to the disenchanted and urge them to back Romney not only because he shares their values but, most importantly, to prevent Giuliani from winning:  

As certain as it seems that Hillary will represent the Democratic Party, it now appears the GOP representative will be either Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Governor Mitt Romney (based on polls in early states, money raised and on hand, staff and organization, etc.). And, if it is not Mitt Romney, we would, for the first time in my memory, be faced with a general election contest between two “pro-choice” candidates.

And you don’t just have to take DeMoss’s word that Romney is the real deal – apparently even Jerry Falwell would have supported him, had he not died:

Just about six months before his death, Jerry accepted my invitation to a meeting with Gov. Romney at his home outside Boston. He joined me, and about 15 other evangelicals, for an intimate discussion with the Governor and his wife Ann. Jerry was one of several that day who said, “Governor, I don’t have a problem with your being Mormon, but I want to ask you how you would deal with Islamic jihadists…or with illegal immigration…or how you would choose justices for the Supreme Court…,” and so on.

While Jerry Falwell never told me how he intended to vote in the upcoming election, I think I know how he would not have voted. I also know he would not have “sat this one out” and given up on the Supreme Court for a generation.

Aside from assuring his right-wing allies that Romney is everything they are looking for, the focus of his the letter is on capitalizing on the Right’s antipathy toward, and fear of, Giuliani : 

Currently, conservatives (whether evangelical or not) are dividing their support among several candidates. In the long run, this only helps Rudy Giuliani, who clearly does not share our values on so many issues … Talk of a possible third party candidate draft movement only helps Giuliani (or, worse yet, Clinton), in my view. While I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. James Dobson that not having a pro-life nominee of either major party presents an unacceptable predicament, I would rather work hard to ensure we do nominate a pro-life candidate than to launch an 11th-hour third party campaign. Mike Huckabee affirmed this concern when he told the Washington Post last week, “I think a third party only helps elect Hillary Clinton.”

“Hey, you hate Giuliani and are unimpressed by everyone else, so why not back Romney?” seems to be DeMoss’s message – one that, for a lot of panicked right-wing leaders, just might be a lifesaver, since they have placed themselves in a situation where they are faced with the unpleasant prospect of having to abandon the GOP all together. 

FRC's Perkins Suggests Romney Better Than Huckabee on Religious-Right Issues

In a press call this morning, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins downplayed recent talk about religious-right leaders threatening to bolt the GOP for a third-party presidential candidate. Perkins, promoting FRC’s Values Voter Summit in Washington next weekend, said he was “optimistic” that the GOP field would “solidify” and a candidate acceptable to the Right would emerge out of the conference’s straw poll.

Rudy Giuliani’s decision to participate in the FRC event threatens to deflate this optimism, however. If Giuliani gets significant support from among the FRC members participating in the straw poll—as he has from among the national constituency these leaders claims to represent—then the threats by James Dobson and others to spoil the election could fall flat. “I’m not saying he won’t get some social conservative support,” cautioned Perkins, “but some social conservative support is not enough to win.” Despite Perkins’ claim that Giuliani will receive a “cordial” reception, we can expect many speakers—not just other candidates—to directly or indirectly attack, in Perkins’ phrase, “the pro-abortion rights candidate.”

And while some right-wing activists are hoping that the Religious Right will coalesce around one of their second-tier favorites—such as Mike Huckabee—Perkins seemed to downplay that option, panning them as unacceptable to economic- and foreign policy-oriented Republicans. In fact, Perkins spoke glowingly of Mitt Romney, saying that “in my opinion, [he’s] the strongest on these core social issues”—and not only that, but his “conversion” on wedge issues has been “genuine.” In fact, Perkins said Romney is stronger than Huckabee and the others on such issues.

During the campaign cycle, he has made these issues more front-and-center in his message than I think other candidates who are social conservatives have, I mean that have a track record of social conservatism. I think he has staked out ground on these issues so much so that he would have a very difficult time ever backing away from them; he would lose all credibility. He has really brought emphasis to these issues. And I do think, yes, more than Mike Huckabee and some of the others.

Meanwhile, Alan Keyes can’t get no respect. Despite his wide-open schedule, he’s not on the list of speakers at the Values Voter Summit; nevertheless, FRC’s Charmaine Yoest declared that “we have all of the major GOP candidates.”

Dobson Says Jump, GOP Says How High

It took awhile, but every one of the four leading Republican presidential hopefuls who skipped the “Values Voter Debate” in Florida have now agreed to attend the upcoming “Values Voter Summit” in Washington, DC being sponsored by the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Values, and others. 

In early September, Mitt Romney agreed to attend and, a short while later, so did John McCain.   Fred Thompson held off – at least until a message from James Dobson blasting him as unacceptable to the Religious Right made its way into the press, and then the Thompson campaign suddenly got the message and quickly agreed to attend as well.  

Still, a few weeks went by with Rudy Giuliani being the only candidate refusing to attend – until again Dobson and his right-wing allies lashed out, announcing that they would consider abandoning the Republican Party if Giuliani gets the nomination, with Dobson taking to the pages of the New York Times to explain that “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.”

And guess what happened? 

Giuliani has now announced that he too will be attending the FRC/FOF event. 

It is quite a testament to the influence of James Dobson that despite having publicly savaged McCain, Giuliani, and Thompson, these candidates are tripping over themselves to attend an event that is scheduled to culminate with a “Family, Faith and Freedom Gala Dinner Honoring Dr. James Dobson.”   

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Mitt Romney Posts Archive

Brian Tashman, Monday 08/15/2011, 3:23pm
Following Michele Bachmann’s triumph in the Ames Straw Poll, she was immediately crowned the frontrunner in the Iowa Caucus. While winning the Ames Straw Poll does not guarantee a victory at the Iowa Caucus (just ask Mitt Romney), it does show the strength of a candidate’s campaign operation and popular support. But most importantly, victory at Ames does not make a candidate a mainstream political figure. As Tim Murphy writes today in Mother Jones and consistently chronicled on RWW, Bachmann throughout her entire political career has seen herself and acted as an ultraconservative... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 08/11/2011, 5:57pm
Tim Murphy @ Mother Jones: Michele Bachmann's Auschwitz Warning. Alvin McEwen: Hate group leader doesn't want gays to serve on juries. Rachel Tabachnick @ Talk 2 Action: Why Have the Apostles Behind Rick Perry's Prayer Rally Been Invisible to Most Americans? Igor Volsky @ Think Progress LGBT: VA Attorney General Cuccinelli: States Should Have Right To Enact Marriage Equality. Greg Sargent @ The Plum Line: Mitt Romney: `Corporations are people.’ MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 08/05/2011, 10:44am
Before last year's Values Voter Summit, we made a concerted effort to hold organizers and participants accountable for willingly sharing the stage with Bryan Fischer, the Religious Right's most unapologetic bigot. Fischer was a featured speaker at the event, just as he had been the year before, and we called upon Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann who were scheduled to speak alongside of Fischer at the event to take a stand about Fischer's relentless bigotry. Needless to say, they refused to do any such thing and Fischer was given twenty minutes to spew... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 08/04/2011, 11:33am
As we mentioned yesterday, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann will be joining FRC, the National Organization for Marriage and the Susan B. Anthony List for a ""Values Voter Bus Tour" through Iowa. In kicking off the event, NOM has announced that Santorum, Bachmann, and Mitt Romney have all signed a five-point "Marriage Pledge" [PDF] that includes a promise to establish a "presidential commission" to "investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters": One, support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 08/03/2011, 5:55pm
Miranda @ PFAW Blog: Taking it Back to 1987, Mitt Romney Teams Up with Judge Bork. Jeff Biggers @ Salon: The disturbing copy-and-paste habits of Russell Pearce. Nick @ Bold Faith Type: Witnesses at "Mini-King Hearings" Debunk Rep. Myrick's Muslim Rhetoric. Towleroad: GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia Meets with Head of CPAC Al Cardenas Over Group's Rejection. Scott Keyes @ Think Progress Security: Gaffney Wonders If Norwegian Terrorist’s Manifesto Was A ‘False Flag Operation’ Intended To ‘Suppress... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/13/2011, 5:58pm
Andy Birkey @ Minnesota Independent: Religious right rushes to Bachmann’s defense following ‘ex-gay’ reports. Justin Elliott @ Salon: Rick Perry's Confederate past. Sarah Posner @ Religion Dispatches: Neo-Confederates and the Revival of “Theological War” for the “Christian Nation.” Warren Throckmorton: The strange bedfellows involved in Rick Perry’s prayer meeting. Towleroad: Mitt Romney Rejects Conservative Iowa Group's 'Marriage Vow', Calls It 'Undignified and Inappropriate.' Igor Volsky @ ... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Wednesday 07/13/2011, 1:39pm
Right-wing activist and former California legislator Steve Baldwin has organized an open letter to “Conservative, Catholic and Evangelical Leaders” asking them to refuse support for Mitt Romney’s campaign for president. Already a number of activists including failed US Senate candidate and Tea Party hero Joe Miller; Rick Scarborough of Vision America; Brian Camenker of MassResistance; Linda Harvey of Mission America; Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association; Ted Beahr of WND and Movieguide; Gary Glenn of American Family Association-Michigan, Kelly... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/06/2011, 2:19pm
In 2009, Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action organized a right-wing conference in St. Louis called "How To Take Back America" that was co-sponsored by the likes of WorldNetDaily, The American Family Association, Vision America, Liberty Counsel, and WallBuilders.  The keynote speakers at the conference were Mike Huckabee and Rep. Michele Bachmann. The line-up at this conference was so radical that we put together a report on the participants which gave special attention to the truly fringe views espouse by Porter:  It is probably impossible to overstate the extremism and lunacy... MORE >