Post Bush, Where Will the Christian Right Turn For Leadership?

Giuliani and McCain are not names that trip easily off the tongues of those on the American Christian Right.  They are usually accompanied with an uncertain look or even a scornful remark.  Yet these two, Senator John McCain of Arizona and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, are comfortably in front for the Republican Presidential nomination.  Neither of them inspires confidence in the Christian Right, McCain for his acrimonious and often public spats with President Bush and Giuliani for his liberal views on gay marriage and abortion. Another prominent candidate, Mitt Romney, is treated with equal suspicion due to his publicly declaring himself a “pro choice” politician in a former life as Governor of Massachusetts.  With none of these figures being able to claim the backing of the Christian Right, and with time already running out, where will the group that elevated George Bush to the presidency in 2000 and 2004 turn for its standard bearer in 2008?

Several names have been proposed although, with the exception of one, none of them have national name recognition and all draw disapproving glances from various sections of the Republican Right.  One name mentioned is that of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina.  Unlike Giuliani and McCain, he has a clear conservative record, although he is barely known outside of his state and does not seem interested in running. Representative Duncan Hunter of California and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee both lack name recognition and draw criticism for their support for protectionist measures and taxation policy respectively.  That leaves Senator Sam Brownback as being the only candidate with some national name recognition.  Though he favours tighter abortion controls, he is roundly booed for his support of the president’s temporary guest worker programme. 

All this leaves the Republicans with “no outstanding conservative” for the 2008 election and has, according to Paul Weyrich, chairman of Free Congress Foundation, contributed to a “great anxiety” amongst Conservatives.  They fear a repeat of the 1996 election, when they were faced with a ‘lesser-of-two-evils’ situation, only marginally favouring the Republican candidate Bob Dole over President Clinton. Getting what Gary Bauer, a former Republican primary candidate himself, calls a “provable conservative” who can also demonstrate that “they can put together the resources necessary to prevail” is proving extremely difficult, and with the early front-runners being picked as the Republican candidate in seven of the last ten elections, catching Giuliani and McCain looks even more unlikely.

What is likely is that, from the Christian Right’s perspective, the Republican nominee for the 2008 race will not be “one of us”, and equally that they will not enjoy the same support from this powerful group that twice pushed George Bush into the White House. 

Anton Muszanskyj

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