Republican hopefuls court Christian right
In the courting of the Christian right, there are right answers and there are wrong answers. And some of the Republican candidates for president...
WASHINGTON — In the courting of the Christian right, there are right answers and there are wrong answers.
And some of the Republican candidates for president, confronting a two-day screening by conservative voters that will culminate today with the results of a straw poll, are reminding this critical constituency that their rivals have given the wrong answers.
"I have been pro-life my entire political career," Sen. John McCain of Arizona told a ballroom full of social conservatives in Washington on Friday. Repeating his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, McCain added, "You need only examine my public record to know that I will not change my position."
Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator, delivered the same message. Citing a "100-percent pro-life voting record," he said, "That's who I was then, that's who I am today, and that's the kind of president I will be."
The problem, for many of the evangelicals and conservatives assembled, is that some of the party's most prominent candidates cannot say the same thing. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, supports abortion rights. Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, once supported abortion rights but has since switched positions.
For this critical GOP constituency, the toughest question may involve principle versus pragmatism. Should religious conservatives embrace a candidate who hews to their vision of social values and "a culture of life," or reluctantly warm to a candidate they think can win?
"We're not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton," Romney told the assembly Friday night.
As Christian conservatives try to answer that question, the Values Voter Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council, is giving them the opportunity to scrutinize a full cast of Republican candidates.
These voters are not talking about the Iraq war. They are talking about abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research. The verdict emanating from this hall could resonate among a powerful audience.
Thirty-seven percent of all Republican and Republican-leaning voters are evangelical Protestants, the independent Pew Research Center has found, and 43 percent say social issues will be "very important" to their vote in 2008.
Sen. Brownback officially ends bid
TOPEKA, Kan. — Republican Sen. Sam Brownback abandoned his 2008 presidential bid Friday, his White House aspirations dashed by a lack of support and money.
Said the Kansas senator: "My yellow brick road just came short of the White House this time."
The conservative managed to gain the support of only 1 percent of Republicans in this month's Associated Press-Ipsos poll after peaking at 3 percent in June. Fundraising reports this week showed that his campaign was struggling financially, with $94,000 available to spend.
Brownback, 51, is expected to run for Kansas governor in 2010, when his second term expires.
He announced his withdrawal at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, standing with his wife, Mary, and three of his five children.
RNC resignation: Sen. Mel Martinez, of Florida, the public face of the Republican National Committee (RNC) as its general chairman, said Friday he was stepping down after serving only 10 months. He wasn't expected to step down until a Republican presidential nominee was selected, and the earliest that could occur is February. The RNC said Martinez's job would not be filled.
No debate: Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel will not be part of the next Democratic presidential debate, Oct. 30 in Philadelphia, because he did not meet fundraising and polling requirements for the forum, NBC News political director Chuck Todd said. All the other Democratic candidates expect to participate.
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