Upcoming Straw Poll Draws out Right-Wing Attacks

While two of the front-running Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani and McCain, have withdrawn from the Ames, Iowa straw poll, and with Fred Thompson yet to announce his candidacy, the results of the August 11 survey won’t carry too much weight. Even Mitt Romney, who is still in the race, is scaling back his ambitions, hoping he doesn’t embarrass himself with a poor showing against the remaining, less viable candidates: “[W]e’re not trying to overwhelm anybody,” he said.

But for those second-tier candidates, Ames is a chance to shine. That’s why it’s no surprise to see Brownback, whose campaign strategy seems to depend on showing strongly in Iowa, coming out aggressively against Romney. In an attack reminiscent of their early jockeying for religious-right favor, Brownback is accusing Romney of being a newcomer to anti-gay politics. In a press release from Brownback’s campaign:

In a 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney offered his support for gay scout leaders: “I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.” …

Romney’s openness to gay scout leaders conflicts with the Scout Oath, which requires Scouts to be “morally straight.”

“What part of morally straight doesn’t Mitt Romney understand?” said Larry Cirigiano, a Catholic activist in Massahusetts. “Boy Scout ‘leaders’ are supposed to be role models. Open homosexuals should not be leading young Boy Scouts anywhere.”

Senator Brownback has always supported the right of the Boy Scouts of America to determine the best leaders for young scouts.

Romney’s campaign called the accusation a “distortion.”

But Brownback’s attack on Romney shouldn’t be seen as a sign that he is above attacking other long-shot candidates: The Brownback campaign placed automated phone calls to anti-abortion Iowans denouncing Tom Tancredo for accepting money from a donor associated with Planned Parenthood. (That donor happens also to be the leading funder of the anti-immigrant movement.)

But perhaps Brownback is right to be eyeing Tancredo as well as Romney: If Tancredo — who has moved his campaign goal away from the presidency, instead concentrating on stopping comprehensive immigration reform — beats Brownback in the Ames poll, it would be hard even for his far-right base to take Brownback seriously.

The Brownback campaign sent a link to this clip of Romney discussing the Boy Scouts in 1994.