It is difficult to draw conclusions about the extraordinarily unscientific straw poll conducted at this weekend’s so-called values voters summit. (In fact, the polling methods were so irregular that I wonder if an ombudsman at some major newspaper is questioning the propriety of publishing the numbers). In order to take the results seriously one must assume that the members of the group sponsoring the event, the Family Research Council, are representative of something, anything, beyond themselves.
Are they representative of Evangelical America? If so why did they shunt Giuliani into eighth place when all previous polling indicates that Evangelicals rank him at, or near, the top of the slate? Are they representative of America at large? If so how on earth did the iconoclastic congressman Ron Paul come in third?
But perhaps the most intriguing question concerns the degree to which these Conservative Christians represent the Republican Party and vice versa. For just a few weeks ago, James Dobson made it clear that frontrunner Rudy Giuliani does not represent the interests of pro-family groups. “Go right ahead!” he seemed to taunt, “nominate a candidate who does not share our values on abortion and gay marriage. Then try and beat Hillary without us.”
But by making no concessions in his speech at this weekend’s summit Giuliani made a statement of his own (albeit as politely and diplomatically as possible): he does not believe that this group’s views on these two issues represent those of the Party, or Evangelical America, or America for that matter. A spectacular game of chicken between Conservative Christian leaders and the rest of the GOP has now begun.
Doctor Dobson’s ultimatum identified the real stakes in the current race. Are Conservative Christians truly indispensable presidential kingmakers without whom the White House is unattainable in 2008? That was Dobson’s surmise. Or, are their contributions to the Party, be they electoral, financial or organizational, preposterously overrated? Although he asked his audience to listen with “an open mind and an open heart,” Giuliani must be closed off to any other possibility.
As they stand, the results of the straw poll would seem to suggest that the nomination of Mitt Romney (who took first place) and Mike Huckabee (who came in second on his home court) will keep these Conservative Christians from defecting. Senator John McCain, for his part, is in trouble. A few weeks ago, he did everything but speak in tongues in order to establish his Christian bona fides. The Family Research Council’s membership thanked him with a last place finish.
Giuliani fared just slightly better. The values voters are clearly not pleased by him. What remains to be seen is if the rest of the GOP shares their displeasure.
By Jacques Berlinerblau |
October 22, 2007; 9:14 AM ET
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