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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Values Voters: The Sleeper Awakens?


By Bob Ellis

Dakota Voice

Fears that values voters will walk away from the GOP if a pro-abortion candidate is nominated for president continues to animate election discussions. And it should: if the Republican Party's base of conservative voters isn't with the party during the campaign, America will definitely elect a Democrat president in 2008.

With the stakes so high, and with the negative numbers for Democrat front runner Hillary Clinton so high why is there so much controversy on the Right?

Robert Novak's column at examines why Christians who know Giuliani 's positions on the issues are less than excited about him:

There is certainly not much in Giuliani's background to attract religious conservatives. After he changed from being a George McGovern Democrat in 1972, his successful 1993 campaign for mayor opposed term limits, school choice and an end to rent controls. As the Republican mayor, he backed Democrat Mario Cuomo's losing fourth-term bid for governor of New York. He consistently has been pro-choice on abortion, pro-gay rights (including gay marriage) and pro-gun control. How anybody that liberal can be the apparent choice of the religious right is attributed by Republican pollster Frank Luntz to Giuliani's reputation for fighting terrorism. "He has turned security into a social issue," Luntz told me.

That does not fully explain the strong support for him by practicing Catholics. Giuliani says he was raised as a Catholic but declines to say whether he practices the religion today. When Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis recently said he would refuse Holy Communion to Giuliani because of his position on abortion, the candidate did not dispute the cleric but merely said, "Everybody has a right to their opinion." There is no evidence that Giuliani attends mass apart from funerals and holidays.

Carol Platt Liebau's recent column examines the threat by values voters to walk away from the GOP if Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee. She quotes from an email she received from someone who professes "great admiration" for Dr. Dobson:

What Dr. Dobson has done is to try to influence my vote not by offering open support for an electable pro-life candidate but by threatening me with the specter of virtually handing the election to Hillary Clinton unless I, as a Republican, vote to nominate an avowedly pro-life candidate. This is flat out bullying of the religious right in the name of "principle."

What I find the most short-sighted about this statement is that it assumes the "religious right" is bullying. Rather, I think the liberal element within the Republican Party is trying to bully conservatives and average voters into accepting Giuliani as the "default" candidate. I think the case could easily be made that the "religious right" is being bullied by establishment "country club" Republicans who have, with their large contributions and influence in societal discussion have been bullying values voters into a choice between a liberal Republican and a liberal Democrat--not much of a choice for people concerned about the erosion of traditional values.

Why is it that when liberals want to depart from the values that we've held for hundreds or even thousands of years, and conservatives oppose this, it's the conservatives who are branded "divisive" or "bullies?" Conservatives simply want to maintain the values and limited government that made America the greatest, most successful nation on earth, so why are they painted as the ones who are "rocking the boat?"

I think the answer is clear: liberals get a lot more mileage out of their issues with the general, unsuspecting public if they paint themselves as the "reasonable" and "moderate" victims. It works more often than not, too, because many in the general public don't stop to consider the accuracy of the allegation. And conservatives are usually bumbling and ineffective in their response to such charges.

But this blaming of conservative voters for leaving a party that has already left them is based on another flawed position.

As I've said before, the assumption by most who oppose values voters' stand on principle is that Giuliani can win as long as there isn't an organized exodus of the "religious right." Whether it's sincere or a bluff, that assumption is a mistaken one.

I would hold my nose and vote for Giuliani if it was him or Clinton. But a lot of values voters are more principled than I am; they wouldn't vote for the lesser of two evils. This is something that James Dobson has publicly sworn many times he won't do (vote for a pro-abortion candidate), and many people support him in this vow.

But even if some values voters would hold their noses and vote for Giuliani , almost none of the nation's values voters are going to get excited enough to supply the time, money and buzz needed to create the synergy of a successful campaign. A candidate can't win if their core base is so disgusted with their party's nominee that they can't bring themselves to contribute money or time for door-knocking and promoting their candidate to their community. All the energy that comes with a popular campaign just wouldn't exist. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, except for some public polish to make her appear more palatable to the middle, is made-to-order for the far Left.

This same situation doomed Bob Dole's 1996 candidacy against Bill Clinton and produced a 9-point loss; Dole was far too mushy for people of traditional values to get excited about.

If you need another example, go back to the 1976 campaign between liberal Republican Gerald Ford and Democrat Jimmy Carter. As Family Research Council president Tony Perkins recently told the Baltimore Sun, "My experience has been that you donít beat a liberal with a moderate, because what you have is a motivated base on the left and a lack of enthusiasm on the other side," Voters just won't buy a fake liberal (a "moderate") when they can have a real one for the same price.

Just having this discussion may be increasing awareness of Giuliani 's liberal positions. Giuliani has fallen to 4th place in Iowa, and a Des Moines Register poll reveals 75% of Republicans are turned off by his support for abortion. Poll results released by Rasmussen on Oct. 13 reveal Giuliani 's negative numbers are almost as high as Hillary Clinton's; 29% say they'll definitely vote for Giuliani and 43% say they'll definitely vote against him. By comparison, Clinton's numbers are 35% for and 46% against, leaving her a net number 3 points better than Giuliani .

There are a lot of busy, everyday Republicans who don't even yet know where Giuliani stands on the issues. How high will his negative numbers go when they do find out he's pro-abortion, pro-homosexual rights, dubious on gun control, been married and divorced multiple times, committed adultery, and lived for a while in an apartment with several homosexuals?

Values voters have always slept in and missed most opportunities to affect presidential campaigns where they count the most: at the primaries. Too many traditional Americans don't take interest in a presidential election until the party nominees are already decided; at this point they're likely to be left with a choice between "the lesser of two evils."

Perhaps these recent discussions between leaders in the values voter constituency indicates this group won't be sleeping in for the 2008 primary. Maybe conservative voters have finally realized they can affect the choice of the nominee in the primaries, work to get the best nominee, and are getting energized to do just that.

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