Ezra Klein predicts that John McCain will choose Joe Lieberman as his running mate and explains his reasoning:
For the Republicans, however, 2008 can’t be [about] mobilization. Their half is too small. Their brand is too damaged. And they recognized that when they chose John McCain — who’s not a base mobilizing evangelical conservative anyway — as their nominee … [Lieberman] lets McCain telegraph an ideological ambiguity and shift towards a policy agenda that’s about process, about “reaching across party lines and getting things done,” rather than about sops to the conservative base.
That may very well be true, but for this strategy to work one has to assume that the McCain camp would be willing to sacrifice nearly the entire Religious Right base in an effort to win support of moderates and independents because, as the Right has made abundantly clear, their now tepid support for McCain hinges almost entirely on his choice of running mate.
Just last week, we were noting how the Right was nearly unanimous in their opposition to Lieberman and that, while they were just starting to warm up to McCain, their efforts at mobilizing their grassroots activists on his behalf came to a screeching halt when he suggested that he was open to the idea of naming a pro-choice running mate.
Among those doing some soul-searching this week is Betty Kanavel, who lives in the tiny Monroe County town of Ida and will vote for no one who isn’t anti-abortion. She would like McCain to pick Mike Huckabee, the charismatic preacher and former Arkansas governor who finished third in Michigan’s primary.
The 56-year-old Kanavel, who works part-time at her church, also is concerned over Romney’s religion.
“I probably shouldn’t go there, but I will anyway: The Mormon religion is totally not the Bible,” Kanavel said, adding: “It’s very hard, but if he’s the choice, OK. He is a good man.”
But this is a debate that has raged over Mike Huckabee vs. Mitt Romney and is rooted in the fact that both are, at least nominally, pro-life. Lieberman, for all his faults, is ostensibly pro-choice – a fact that will not be easily glossed over by the Religious Right:
Let us be clear on this. Our values and our respect for the Constitution make clear that women must have the right to choose—and we will continue to fight for that right
When McCain floated the idea of a pro-choice running mate a few weeks ago, the Right went completely off the rails and leaders like Richard Land have been taking every opportunity to make absolutely clear just what such a decision would mean to McCain’s campaign:
If he picks a pro-life running mate, it will really cement evangelical support. If he picks a pro-choice running mate it will give oxygen to all those doubts, and deflate the momentum that has been building.
I don’t even know who his vice-presidential candidate will be. You know he could very well choose a pro-abortion candidate and it would not be unlike him to do that because he seems to enjoy a frustrating conservatives on occasions. But as of this moment, I have to take into account the fact that Senator John McCain has voted pro-life
consistently and that’s a fact.
In case that wasn’t clear enough, FOF’s Tom Minnery recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that Dobson is essentially waiting to see who McCain picks before officially endorsing him:
“Admittedly, for a lot of us, McCain is an acquired taste,” said Tom Minnery, who leads the government and public policy division for Focus on the Family.
But if McCain chooses a strong social conservative for his running mate, Focus on the Family’s leader, James Dobson – whose conservative radio broadcasts are heard by 200 million people worldwide – could endorse him.
“We’ll wait to see who his vice president is before embracing him,” Minnery said.
If the McCain campaign decides that a pro-choice running mate is what the campaign needs, it’ll be because it has concluded that he can with without the Right or, more likely, that the Right will put aside its principles because they have no alternative but to support the campaign regardless of his running mate. But the Right is in no mood to be insulted in this manner. As it stands now, McCain’s support from the right-wing base is tenuous at best and will likely collapse completely were he to fill out his ticket with a pro-choice candidate.
As Dobson explained it, McCain has a history of going “out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes” of the Religious Right – and choosing a pro-choice running mate would be the ultimate poke in the eye to the Right; one that would make it nearly impossible for them to support him.