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?

Many have said they’re unhappy with the current field, and in opinion polls, Republicans say they long for more and better choices for president. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith and only-recent opposition to abortion and gay rights is a problem for some Republicans. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose campaign appears to be foundering, is not a favorite of social conservatives because of his comments, during his 2000 race against Mr. Bush, that they wield too much influence in the party.

And Mr. Giuliani is considered unacceptable by some religious leaders because he supports abortion rights and has a rocky personal history, including two divorces.

Maybe, just maybe, the fact that none of the current candidates have particularly good records on the Right’s key social issues is what is driving this talk that fighting Islamic extremism is now as important as fighting gay marriage and abortion, as right-wing political organization struggle to figure out how to remain influential in a Republican primary where they don’t like any of the candidates.  

But will it work?  Maybe not: 

“I don’t think a majority of Southern Baptists who voted for George W. Bush – and that’s 84 percent of them – will vote for Giuliani against Hillary Clinton. They will not do it,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Rather than vote for an abortion rights candidate, many Christian conservatives would stay home, he predicted.

The only thing that might change that would be a major terrorist attack, he said. A strong new threat to national security would shift the focus to which candidate would be the best choice for commander in chief – and that would mean a boost for Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain, Mr. Land said.

“America will elect a tough guy,” he said. “And Democrats don’t have any tough guys.”

The most amazing thing about Land’s quote was that he was able to pull himself away from his duties as unofficial head of the Fred Thompson fan club long enough to weigh in.  But when you are given the opportunity to badmouth Rudy Giuliani while calling the Democrats wimps and suggesting that another terrorist attack would really help out the Republican Party all in one article, you just can’t pass it up.