Couldn’t Happen To A Nicer Bunch Of Guys
It seems that the Religious Right is finding it hard to be relevant in the race for the 2008 Republican nomination:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 â€” A group of influential Christian conservatives and their allies emerged from a private meeting at a Florida resort this month dissatisfied with the Republican presidential field and uncertain where to turn.
The event was a meeting of the Council for National Policy, a secretive club whose few hundred members include Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Rev. Jerry Falwell of Liberty University and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. Although little known outside the conservative movement, the council has become a pivotal stop for Republican presidential primary hopefuls, including George W. Bush on the eve of his 1999 primary campaign.
But things are different this time around. The front runners for the GOP nomination aren’t beholden to, or even liked by, the Evangelical Right:
Many conservatives have already declared their hostility to Senator John McCain of Arizona, despite his efforts to make amends for having once denounced Christian conservative leaders as “agents of intolerance,” and to former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, because of his liberal views on abortion and gay rights and his three marriages.
Many were also suspicious of former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts; members have used the council as a conduit to distribute a dossier prepared by a Massachusetts conservative group about liberal elements of his record on abortion, stem cell research and gay rights. (Mr. Romney has worked to convince conservatives that his views have changed.)
And as for the rest of the field, they aren’t too appealing either:
And some members of the council have raised doubts about lesser known candidates – Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Representative Duncan Hunter of California, who were invited to Amelia Island to address an elite audience of about 60 of its members, and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who spoke to the full council at its previous meeting, in October in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Although each of the three had supporters, many conservatives expressed concerns about whether any of the candidates could unify their movement or raise enough money to overtake the front-runners, several participants in the meetings said.
The Times story goes on to speculate as to whether this apparent marginlization of the Religious Right would be a bad thing for the GOP, which traditionally has needed the support of these voters to win elections. I agree that this threat exists, but I think it also points out the growing reality that the days when groups like this could have a significant impact on the Republican Party may be waning. They don’t represent a majority of the voting public, and they certainly don’t reflect the views of most Americans on social issues.
Right now two of the three frontrunners for the GOP nomination are essentially anathema to the Evangelical Right and the third, Mitt Romney, is the subject of a lot of distrust. If they can get this far without the support of this supposedly important segment of the party, doesn’t that mean that these people aren’t quite as powerful as we’ve been led to believe ?