Romney and Brownback Compete for Right-Wing Pole Position in 2008

As contenders for the Republican nomination for president jostle for the Right’s favor, much of the focus has been on social wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage. The Religious Right has signaled that it will not be easy to please, and the candidates have responded by working overtime to prove their bona fides.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has carefully courted religious-right leaders and whose speech against same-sex marriage at FRC’s “Liberty Sunday” event was interpreted as a pitch for the evangelical vote, fell afoul of the Right when statements he made in 1994 were revisited that seemed to reveal a more liberal stance on abortion and gays. His attempts to explain his apparent shift and to recover his position have interfered with his efforts to “occupy the conservative ground” early.

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback has also been angling for that same ground, by positioning himself as the defender of Christmas, by emphasizing support for faith-based programs, and by keeping the right-wing assault on the judiciary alive in the Senate. He has been seen in Iowa recently, hoping for a state-level Religious Right with increased influence. (He’s already picked up the endorsement of the president of Iowa Right to Life.) Brownback told the National Catholic Reporter, “I’ll be the only person at the core of the campaign who will be pushing for the reform of the family and restoration of the culture and human dignity at all phases of life.”

ATR's PledgeBut lest the economic Right feel left out, both Romney and Brownback, a day apart, just signed the “Taxpayer’s Protection Pledge” put out by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist, a leading organizer of the right-wing coalition in Washington, has famously described his goal as “to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”