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.

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."

Anti-Gay Scholars Hit Political Road

The Religious Right looks to Maggie Gallagher and Robert George for intellectual cover when arguing that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry, but whatever credibility they have as independent scholars will be put to the test by their new venture, the National Organization for Marriage.

Gallagher, president of the low-key Institute for Marriage and Public Policy (and perhaps most famous for taking money from the Bush Administration while promoting its marriage policy), and George, a Princeton professor, started NOM in order to lobby against marriage equality for same-sex couples and to campaign against legislators connected to the issue. The group ran this billboard in Massachusetts before the state’s 2007 election (image via Good As You):

Massachusetts billboard

The group is airing a radio ad in New Jersey against a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry, featuring a child saying, “God creating Adam and Eve? That was so old-fashioned.” Although the bill, entitled “Civil Marriage and Religious Protection Act,” explicitly states that no religious group would be required to sanction any marriage (a requirement the First Amendment prohibits anyway) , the NOM ad hits on public fears that marriage equality for same-sex couples would imperil churches, stating, “They also want to penalize traditional New Jersey churches with threats to state tax exemptions and adoption licenses.”

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?”

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 Picks Up Endorsement From Bob Jones University

The Wall Street Journal reports "Robert R. Taylor, dean of the university’s college of arts and sciences, said he believes the former Massachusetts governor is the only Republican candidate who both stands a chance of winning the White House and will reliably implement the anti-abortion, antigay marriage, pro-gun agenda of Christian conservatives. 'The fact that I’m seen as a Religious Right person would hopefully get others to step out for him.'"

Romney Blames Media for Mormon Phobia

In an interview with Christianity Today, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the questions some readers may have about a Mormon candidate. But Romney apparently blames the media and those “who would like to establish a religion of secularism in this country to replace all others”:

[Q.] How do you think relations between Mormons and Trinitarian Christians have changed during your lifetime?

I don't know that there's been a significant change relating to doctrine. [But] several months ago, not long before he died, I had the occasion of having the Rev. Jerry Falwell at our home. He said that when he was getting ready to oppose same-sex marriage in California, he met with the president of my church in Salt Lake City, and they agreed to work together in a campaign in California. He said, "Far be it from me to suggest that we don't have the same values and the same objectives."

[Q.] Have you seen changes between 1968, when your father ran for President, and now?

In terms of the relationship between the faiths, I don't see any particular differences. I know the media today focus far more on people of faith. In some circles, the bias against believers is pronounced. There are some people who would like to establish a religion of secularism in this country to replace all others. So people of faith are routinely scrutinized in a way they were not when my dad ran in 1968.

Blaming the media for questions about Romney’s religion is something we’ve seen before (although blaming people who want to “replace all religion” with “secularism” may be a newer one). But if Romney is looking for someone to blame, perhaps he should start with the religious-right activists he’s been trying hard to court. As we posted before:

Surprise! Gays Not Popular at Religious Right’s GOP Debate

Given the radical right’s longstanding obsession with denying legal recognition or protections to LGBT Americans, it’s not surprising that several questions at the "Values Voter Debate" were about protecting America from the gays. Also not surprisingly, these candidates lined up to oppose equality.

The first question of the night, from the American Family Association’s Buddy Smith, was about “protecting” marriage.  Every candidate except libertarian Ron Paul pledged to push for a federal marriage amendment.  Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee touted his record of pushing a marriage amendment in his state and promised to lead an effort to have a constitutional amendment that would affirm marriage as “one man, one woman, for life.”  Rep. Tom Tancredo pledged to do everything possible to pass a federal constitutional amendment, warning that Americans are just “one kooky judge” away from having homosexual marriage forced on them.  Sen. Brownback bragged of his efforts in the Senate to pass the FMA and complained that President Bush had not done more to pass it.  Alan Keyes, who had just tossed his hat in the ring, took a shot at the absent Mitt Romney, calling him “single-handedly responsible” for gays getting married in Massachusetts (not, shall we say, a view widely shared among marriage equality activists).

Paul Weyrich, a founder of the modern Religious Right political movement, closed the first section of the program by asking what candidates would do to counteract “the homosexual agenda.”  Most candidates went back to the need for a marriage amendment to prevent, in Keyes’ typically tempered words, the “destruction of traditional marriage.” Brownback and Rep. Duncan Hunter talked about keeping gays from serving openly in the military.  Libertarian Ron Paul, while saying he is opposed to legislating morality, called for eradicating hate crime laws. Brownback also attacked hate crimes laws as criminalizing thought and moving into an agenda of not allowing people to speak their beliefs.  Businessman John Cox talked about common sense but spouted nonsense, talking about opening floodgates to bestiality and polygamy and warning darkly of “transvestite” teachers in public schools as a reason to support “school choice” and homeschooling.

During the “yes or no” segment of the program, Stephen Bennett, self-proclaimed “former homosexual,” argued that homosexual behavior is immoral and dangerous, and asked whether, as president, candidates would support legislation ensuring that schools would forfeit federal funding if they expose children to “homosexual propaganda” that puts them at risk. All the candidates clicked their green lights to answer “yes.”   A later question asking whether they would pledge to veto ENDA also won unanimous support.  

During a segment in which questions were directed at a single candidate, anti-gay zealot Peter LaBarbera asked the absent Mitt Romney why voters should trust him when he spent so much of  his career promoting “anti-life” and “pro-homosexual” policies and not challenging Marriott’s providing pornography in its hotels as a member of its board.  But perhaps the most memorable anti-gay question came from Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who cited Abraham Lincoln in criticizing Fred Thompson’s “federalist” approach to marriage, essentially making marriage equality the moral equivalent of slavery:

While you were senator you opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, but recently you stated that you would support a marriage amendment that would prevent judges from imposing same-sex marriage, so long as it would not prohibit state legislatures from adopting same-sex marriage. This reasoning is like saying that you favor a constitutional amendment that prohibits judges from imposing slavery, so long as the state legislatures were free to do so. Does not your position fundamentally misunderstand the universal importance of marriage in the same way my latter example about slavery indicates a misunderstanding of human dignity?

We Want Your Votes, But Not Your Questions

As we’ve chronicled several times over the last few weeks, the “Values Voter Presidential Debate” is scheduled for September 17 in Florida.  Featuring a variety of right-wing leaders, the event is designed to give Republican presidential candidates an opportunity to directly address the concerns of, and answer questions from, figures like Phyllis Schlafly, Don Wildmon, Paul Weyrich, Roy Moore, Janet Folger, and Rick Scarborough.

Unfortunately for the organizers of the event, not one of the four top GOP candidates is willing to be seen with them:

The festivities, however, look likely to go off without a marquee name. Queried yesterday by The New York Sun, the McCain campaign cited a scheduling conflict. "We are not attending," a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, Brooke Buchanan, replied by e-mail. "It's the last day of the No Surrender tour — we will be in South Carolina."

Likewise, the Romney campaign's Florida spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, told the Sun that the former Massachusetts governor had "declined due to a scheduling conflict."

Mr. Thompson's press office also is citing "another event on his calendar that day."

The Giuliani camp didn't even bother with the scheduling-conflict ruse, providing the Sun with the text of a letter the former mayor's campaign manager, Michael DuHaime, sent to the debate's organizers on Friday. "Thank you for your kind invitation for Mayor Giuliani to attend a presidential debate hosted by Values Voters," Mr. DuHaime wrote. "Unfortunately Mayor Giuliani will be unable to accept your invitation."

Undoubtedly, that snub is not sitting well with them – and it is probably only being made worse by this:

Today FRC Action announced that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will speak in a prime-time slot at the Washington Briefing 2007: Values Voter Summit on Friday evening, October 19.

So Romney is willing to show up at a “values voters” event hosted by the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Values and others that features the likes of Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Robert Knight, and Richard Land but won’t have anything to do with the other Values Voter folks?  

It seems as if Romney is willing to accept an invitation to speak to right-wing leaders and activists but is unwilling to actually take questions from them.  While FRC and FOF tend to be considered more “reputable” right-wing groups than the Eagle Forum or Vision America, there is, in actuality, no substantive difference between the views, rhetoric, or mission of these groups.  In fact, several of the participants in the Values Voter Debate are also participating in FRC’s Values Voter Summit, including Star Parker, Bobby Schindler, and Phyllis Schlafly.

So why is it that Romney is willing to pander to the Right at the Values Voter Summit, but is unwilling to actually answer questions from them at the Values Voter Debate? 

Could it be because, while they want their support, they hope to achieve it in a way that allows them to avoid publicly pandering to them by answering questions such as “Do you believe the Ten Commandments should be posted on public property?" or “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?”

Alan Keyes Readying Run for President?

It has now been three months since the launch of the Alan Keyes-backed “We Need Alan Keyes For President” movement and the organization’s petition urging him to run has garnered a mere 1700 signatures  - but that seems to be enough to convince Keyes that he is needed in the GOP primary:

Several Republican presidential hopefuls have committed to be in the Mountain State for the West Virginia Republican Presidential Convention.

A spokesman for the West Virginia GOP says 10 candidates have registered for their February convention.

Among those attending will be Sam Brownback, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Alan Keyes, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and Gene Zarwell.  

More interestingly, it appears as if Keyes might also be participating in the upcoming “Values Voter Presidential Debate” September 17th in Florida.  According to the latest press release: “Seven Republican candidates have confirmed their attendance, but hundreds of encouraging calls are being made to the few remaining unconfirmed candidates.”

Those “remaining unconfirmed candidates” just happen to be the top four Republican hopefuls, each one of which has declared that they won’t be attending:

The festivities, however, look likely to go off without a marquee name. Queried yesterday by The New York Sun, the McCain campaign cited a scheduling conflict. "We are not attending," a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, Brooke Buchanan, replied by e-mail. "It's the last day of the No Surrender tour — we will be in South Carolina."

Likewise, the Romney campaign's Florida spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, told the Sun that the former Massachusetts governor had "declined due to a scheduling conflict."

Mr. Thompson's press office also is citing "another event on his calendar that day."

The Giuliani camp didn't even bother with the scheduling-conflict ruse, providing the Sun with the text of a letter the former mayor's campaign manager, Michael DuHaime, sent to the debate's organizers on Friday. "Thank you for your kind invitation for Mayor Giuliani to attend a presidential debate hosted by Values Voters," Mr. DuHaime wrote. "Unfortunately Mayor Giuliani will be unable to accept your invitation."

A WorldNetDaily article announcing that WND’s own Joseph Farah will be moderating the event, lists only six confirmed participants: Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback, Ron Paul and John Cox.  But since the Values Voter press release says that seven have agreed to participate, could Keyes be that final “candidate?” It is entirely possible, considering that an earlier version of the very same WorldNetDaily article listed Keyes as participating, as does the most recent Rick Scarborough Report.

Perhaps Keyes should hurry up and decide if he is indeed running because a presidential campaign would almost surely raise some concerns about his continuing participation in Vision America’s supposedly non-partisan70 Weeks to Save AmericaCrusade, not to mention concerns about the fairness of the Values Voter debate considering that Keyes was one of the founders of the very organization that is sponsoring it..  

The Passing of D. James Kennedy

D. James Kennedy, the longtime leader of the Coral Ridge megachurch in Florida has died at the age of 76.

Since suffering a heart attack late last year, Kennedy’s health had steadily declined, leading to the shuttering of his Center for Reclaiming America for Christ in April and his official retirement from Coral Ridge Ministries last week, after which we put together a profile of his lengthy and influential career.

PFAW has long monitored Kennedy and his affiliate organizations, leading him, at one point, to claim that “the diabolical mission” of People For the American Way was “to crush the influence of the Christian religion in American society.”  

Below are some other memorable quotes from his years as a leading right-wing figure: 

“God’s Warriors”: Rick Scarborough – “Christ-Ocrat”

CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviewed Vision Americas’ Rick Scarborough for her series "God's Warrirors" amidst his seventy-week “crusade” to save America and rally right-wing voters ahead of next year’s election. In this clip, Scarborough rails against sex education, hate crimes legislation, and gay marriage while calling for the impeachment of federal judges. Transcript after the jump

Cause or Effect?

Wayne Slater, writing in The Dallas Morning News, says that while Rudy Giuliani might not be much liked by the Republican Party’s social conservative, right-wing base, he might not be totally unacceptable either, especially if they are faced with the prospect of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee:

As the most powerful movement in American politics for several decades, conservative Christians insisted that above all else, their candidates adhere to their positions on social issues, particularly abortion and gay marriage. But as their movement changes, many are placing the fight against Islamic extremism at the top of the list as well.

For the last several years, the “fight against Islamic extremism” has never been a key issue for the Right.  While it has been an issue they’ve mentioned occasionally, its importance has always paled in comparison to their primary goals of fighting for restrictions on abortion, passing a federal marriage amendment, and controlling the federal judiciary.  As a matter of fact, the issue of terrorism was nowhere to be seen on last year’s Congressional scorecard [PDF] put together by the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, which claimed to be a “compilation of significant votes representing a cross section of issues affecting the family.”

So what could explain this relatively sudden rise in the importance of national security issues and terrorism for the Right?

Romney Hit for Porn

Adding to charges by MassResistance and others that Mitt Romney “bungled” gay marriage when he was governor of Massachusetts, the candidate is now getting grief about his business career. Romney, in his effort to secure support from social conservatives, has cited pornography as among the things he stands against, but some religious-right activists are questioning his anti-porn credentials.

The Vitter Truth

When David Vitter ran for a seat in the Senate in 2004, he made passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment a centerpiece of his campaign:

We need a U.S. Senator who will stand up for Louisiana values, not Massachusetts's values.  I am the only Senate Candidate to coauthor the Federal Marriage Amendment; the only one fighting for its passage.

Vitter eagerly signed the Family Research Council’s “Marriage Protection Pledge,” vowing to FRC as well as to the “families of the state of [Louisiana] and to all the American people that I will protect the inviolable definition of marriage.”

And seek to “protect” marriage he did, by regularly speaking passionately about the need for passage of a Constitutional amendment:

Voters in Louisiana and at least 44 other states have shown their support for traditional marriage by voting to protect it. But these laws are being attacked in courts across the country, and activist judges should not be able to suppress the will of the American people. This is why we need a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage.

Marriage is a core institution of societies throughout the world and is a bedrock institution for our own society because it has provided permanence and stability for our very social structure.

All of which is undoubtedly making this extremely awkward for him:

Republican Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, whose phone number was linked to Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam," says that he is sorry for a "serious sin" and that he has already made peace with his wife.

Palfrey is awaiting trial on racketeering charges related to a prostitution ring she allegedly ran.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said Monday evening in a printed statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Until his disclosure Monday, Vitter had been a rising star in the Republican social conservative movement.

Romney Names High-Profile Supporters to Religious-Right Committee

Mitt Romney has been aggressively courting the Religious Right for months, slowly recruiting supporters from among the cadre of full-time activists. Earlier this year he scored Pat Robertson’s superlawyer Jay Sekulow, along with Gary Marx of the Judicial Confirmation Network and James Bopp, a prominent anti-abortion attorney.

Last week Romney’s campaign announced the formation of its National Faith and Values Steering Committee, a list of 50 better- and lesser- known religious-right figures. Among the co-chairmen of the committee are Sekulow, Marx, Bopp, Matthew Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation, Barbara Comstock of the Susan B. Anthony List (an anti-abortion PAC), and Jack Templeton, head of the Templeton Foundation and Let Freedom Ring – suggesting the kind of “values” Romney hopes to be absorbing from this caucus.

Most newsworthy was the endorsement of Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition and one of the most fervently anti-gay activists in the country. Nicknamed “Lucky Louie” by imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who directed a gambling company to donate generously to TVC in exchange for support on legislation, Sheldon is the author of “The Agenda: The Homosexual Plan to Change America,” an agenda he describes as “an attack on everything our Founding Fathers hoped to give us,” consisting of Hitler-like propaganda designed to “recruit” children. “As Homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality. Many of them will die in that world,” he wrote in one “special report.”

"When I give my support for a candidate, I am giving the green light, if he wins, all the way down the line in terms of so many moral and social issues," Sheldon recently said. Sheldon joined other big-name religious-right leaders in a meeting with Romney last fall, and he recently met with the candidate for five hours, leaving with a promise that Romney would swear his oath of office on the Bible, not the Book of Mormon. “My thinking is that Mitt Romney is a person with the experience and with the Jude[o-]Christian moral values,” Sheldon told CBN’s David Brody, adding that he’d “been around Mormons long enough to know that … they are sincere about” Jesus.

Other religious-right activists on Romney’s committee include Christian Coalition board member Drew McKissic, Jay Sekulow’s son Jordan, anti-immigration writer James Edwards, and leaders or activists associated with the Alliance Defense Fund, Iowa Christian Alliance (formerly the Christian Coalition of Iowa), Heartbeat International, Legacy Law Foundation, and Citizens for Traditional Values.

Giuliani Creating a “Moral and Spiritual Dilemma” for the Right

Rudy Giuliani has already scored “negative endorsements” from right-wing leaders such as James Dobson, Richard Land, and Richard Viguerie and it looks as if he can now add the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins to that list:
"Speaking as a private citizen, no, no, I could not support (Giuliani)," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which has about a half-million members. "The 20 years I've been involved in politics, the life issue has been at the very top. How could I turn my back on that?" Perkins said that should Giuliani win the nomination, he would vote for a third-party candidate who reflected his values. "It wouldn't be the first time," Perkins added in an interview last week.
A potential Giuliani win in the primary also appears to be a grave concern to a few other right-wing figures:
"When I give my support for a candidate, I am giving the green light, if he wins, all the way down the line in terms of so many moral and social issues," said [Lou] Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, which represents 43,000 churches. "I'm personally not supporting Giuliani," he added. Sheldon is backing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the primaries. … "Where Mayor Giuliani is today, I absolutely could not support him” …said Pat Mahoney, executive director of the Christian Defense Coalition.
But that whole dynamic could change, says Mahoney, with just two words – “and those two words are Hillary Clinton.”
Mahoney, like Sheldon, said that if Giuliani pledges to support conservative "strict constructionist" jurists -- who do not believe the Constitution mandates a federal right to abortion -- to the Supreme Court, the prominent social conservatives could vote Republican in the 2008 election. Sheldon added that support for a third-party candidate is a "wasted vote." … "I have talked to many Christian leaders privately, and I don't know of any faith-based evangelical or Catholic organization, pro-family, pro-life, that could support Rudy Giuliani and stand with him," Mahoney said. "But on a personal level," he added, should Giuliani face a Democrat in the general election, "then what are you faced with? You are faced with appointments to the Supreme Court that could be two or three. It is a moral and spiritual dilemma."
So not one right-wing leader is willing to endorse Giuliani, but apparently their fear of Hillary Clinton and for the future of the Supreme Court might just be enough to get some of them to abandon everything they claim to stand for. Mahoney claims that the Right is facing a “moral and spiritual dilemma,” but what they are really facing is a political dilemma because their primary concern is that if they refuse to back Giuliani and he ends up winning not only the GOP nomination but the presidency, their hold on the Republican Party will have been dealt a devastating blow. And the Right’s dilemma is not just limited to a potential Giuliani nomination – it plagues them with all of the current Republican frontrunners. If they don’t back Romney, Thompson, McCain or whoever becomes the GOP nominee and that candidate wins the White House, the Right is going to be left out in the cold. But if they do back one of the current frontrunners, they will in essence be admitting that their political power is more important than their self-described principles. Ironic as it may be, the Right’s best hope for 2008 might just be to stand back from the presidential campaign and election altogether and hope that the GOP’s nominee loses, at which point they will be well-positioned to trot out their standard line about how the Republicans lost because they abandoned their right-wing base and quickly re-establish themselves as the GOP’s source of electoral power.

Romney Taking Immigration Pointers from Pat Buchanan

Immigration reform is sharply dividing the Republican electorate, as right-wing activists and commentators take increasingly harsh pot-shots at President Bush and other Republican supporters of a comprehensive reform bill being considered in the Senate. Dissent in the ranks over the issue was blamed when the Republican National Committee laid off its entire telemarketing staff last week. And pressure is high among presidential candidates who otherwise agree on most issues: In particular, John McCain, a sponsor of the Senate bill, has been duking it out with Mitt Romney, whom McCain accuses of being newly hardline in his stance on immigration.

According to the American Spectator, Romney has been taking tips from staunchly anti-immigration commentator Pat Buchanan:

If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suddenly sounds tougher and pithier on immigration issues, thank pundit and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan for it. According to Romney insiders, the man who has flip-flopped on immigration sat down privately with Buchanan late last week to discuss the issue.

Buchanan, of course, is a long-time proponent of the view that Mexican immigrants are causing the “death of the West.” What kind of political advice is Romney taking from Buchanan? The former insurgent presidential candidate has recently warned Republicans that “pandering” to Hispanics has cost them white votes, and just two weeks ago he wrote of the current immigration bill,

What is happening to us? An immigrant invasion of the United States from the Third World, as America's white majority is no longer even reproducing itself. Since Roe v. Wade, America has aborted 45 million of her children. And Asia, Africa and Latin America have sent 45 million of their children to inherit the estate the aborted American children never saw. God is not mocked.

And white America is in flight.

Perhaps Romney feels that by embracing Pat Buchanan-style nativist sentiment, he can occupy the narrow political space currently owned by Rep. Tom Tancredo – the GOP’s one-issue anti-immigrant candidate whose campaign is run by Buchanan’s sister Bay. While Tancredo is picking up a small number of fervent supporters, polls show him mired at one percent.

The Media’s Mormon Problem? 

In his latest column, the National Review's Rich Lowry accuses the media of not falling over themselves to write glowing articles about Gov. Mitt Romney:  

For once, the media aren’t so thrilled by a “first.” Usually being the first African-American, woman, Latino, or anything else to run for a major office gives a campaign a frisson of excitement in the press. Such pioneering campaigns are said to hold important lessons about the tolerance of the American public.

But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney represents the first “first” that has elicited a lukewarm reaction from the media. Journalists constantly run stories about whether Romney can become the first Mormon president — with an undercurrent suggesting that they’d be just fine if he can’t.

A trope in Romney-as-Mormon stories is that evangelical Christians won’t be able to vote for a Mormon. There is a whiff of wishfulness to this, as if reporters hope evangelicals prove as bigoted as reporters have always suspected they were. There is certainly resistance to a Mormon candidate among some evangelicals, but the harshest anti-Mormon condemnations have come from the left.

So, according to Lowry, it is the media that is creating a “trope” about right-wing voters being unwilling to support. Well, if the media has gotten the idea that a certain segment of the GOP’s right-wing base would be uncomfortable supporting Romney because of his religion, it must have come from somewhere.  But where? 

Maybe from the various right-wing voters and leaders saying it:

New York Sun:

A prominent and powerful evangelical Christian leader, James Dobson, said yesterday that the Mormon faith practiced by Governor Romney of Massachusetts could pose a serious obstacle if Mr. Romney makes a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

"I don't believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon but that remains to be seen, I guess," Mr. Dobson said on a syndicated radio program hosted by a conservative commentator, Laura Ingraham.

Time Magazine:

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's public-policy arm: "But he's gotta close the deal. Only Romney can make voters comfortable with his Mormonism. Others cannot do it for him."

The Virginian-Pilot

Selecting presidential candidate Mitt Romney as its May commencement speaker has riled some of Regent University's students and alumni who say his Mormon faith clashes with the school's bedrock evangelical Christianity.

"What we're against is the fact that Mormonism is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Christian values and what we believe," said Doug Dowdey, a Virginia Beach pastor who said he graduated from Regent's divinity school last year.

World Magazine:

How many voters does insurance broker Frank Senger of Newport Beach, Calif., represent?

"No way will I be voting for Mitt Romney," he insists. A Republican and a lifelong Baptist, he abhors the thought of voting for a Mormon for president and says "there's more to it than just some prejudice. It bothers me a whole lot that someone that bright could fall for the stories about where Mormonism came from, and all that blather about the golden tablets. If he'll fall for that, do I want him in the same room and at the same table with Kim Jong-il of North Korea or Ahmadinejad from Iran?"


While some evangelical Christians are defending the presidential candidacy of Mormon Mitt Romney from an attack by Al Sharpton, another prominent pastor is going further in his condemnation – saying a vote for the former Massachusetts governor is a vote for Satan.

That's the word from Bill Keller, host of the Florida-based Live Prayer TV program as well as

"If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!" he writes in his daily devotional to be sent out to 2.4 million e-mail subscribers tomorrow.

New York Times

Larry Gordon, senior pastor of Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, said his initial instinct was to rule out Mr. Romney because of his faith. But after his son, who is also a pastor at the church, came away impressed by Mr. Romney after an event, he began to examine him more closely.

“If nobody better comes along, I’m going to vote for him,” Mr. Gordon said. “But I’m hoping somebody better comes along.”

Romney’s Right-Wing Outreach Ramps Up

It looks as if Mitt Romney’s effort to reach out to the GOP’s right-wing base is kicking into overdrive beginning this weekend:

A visit this weekend to the Rev. Pat Robertson's school illustrates the challenge for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as he courts the all-important evangelical vote.

The former Massachusetts governor is to give the commencement address Saturday at Robertson's Regent University in Virginia, a golden opportunity to reach core GOP voters.

Of course, when the invitation was extended to Romney back in March, some of the students at Regent were pretty upset about it:

Selecting presidential candidate Mitt Romney as its May commencement speaker has riled some of Regent University's students and alumni who say his Mormon faith clashes with the school's bedrock evangelical Christianity.

"What we're against is the fact that Mormonism is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Christian values and what we believe," said Doug Dowdey, a Virginia Beach pastor who said he graduated from Regent's divinity school last year.

Dowdey said he welcomed diverse viewpoints at Regent but that the university's commencement should reflect the school's distinctive religious values.

"If Pat wants to hold a political rally, well, hold one. Why not? Just don't hold it at commencement," Dowdey said.

While Romney is busy courting Robertson personally, his campaign is preparing to send out surrogates to court right-wing grassroots activists all over the country:  

In the next few weeks, the campaign will take a more direct approach, sending two of its evangelical supporters for meetings with pastors and others in key primary states.

Mark DeMoss, a public relations executive whose prominent client roster includes the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, said he volunteered to travel to South Carolina and Alabama on Romney's behalf.

Jay Sekulow, a Washington insider and chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, an advocacy group founded by Robertson, is heading to Iowa and Florida, DeMoss said.

Hugh Hewitt, the conservative blogger and radio talk show host, is trying to help Romney by publishing the book "A Mormon in the White House?" which urges Christians not to oppose the candidate because of LDS teachings they consider heretical.

Speaking of Hewitt, he interviewed Romney’s son, Tagg, following last night’s GOP debate so he could offer his spin.  Guess who he thought won?

I thought he knocked it out of the park, he was clearly a fantastic candidate tonight, and showed why he’d make the best president.

My Dad is articulate, he knows how to communicate his vision, he’s very relaxed in front of the camera, he’s a fantastic communicator. I think clearly, anyone who watched the debate tonight would say boy, isn’t Mitt Romney, wouldn’t Mitt Romney make a fantastic president. That’s the same feeling people get when they meet him one on one. It’s the same feeling they get when they meet him in large groups.  

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