The Conservative-a-thon: An Opportunity to Steer Clear of the Real Issues

Garnering support from the evangelical base is something of a rite
of passage for GOP candidates. Many believe they are responsible
for Bush’s reelection in 2004 and are expected to play a major
role in ’08 as well. Which one of the Republican presidential
candidates will emerge from the primaries with the lion’s share
of the religious right’s support is unclear, but the competition
is well under way.

The Southern Baptist Values Voters Summit begins today, and each
candidate has his own plan to out-do his competitors. Whether
“traditional values” will play as big a role as in primaries
past is yet to be determined, but several of the candidates are
relying on them for guidance in their campaign rhetoric.

John McCain, whose campaign has suffered serious windfalls in
recent months, will use the conference as one in a series of
attempts to back track on some of his “straight talk” from the
2000 election, where many in the Christian base were unnerved by
his desire to move away from social issues. McCain is taking a
different route this time around. He is expected to tout his
anti-choice record and hopes to capitalize on his relationships
with high-ranking officials within the religious right.

Fred Thompson, who has not been the Reagan-reincarnation
Republicans hoped he would be (or even somewhat impressive overall)
needs to establish both his ideological credibility and competency.
James Dobson of Focus on the Family has said that Thompson could
not “speak his way out of a paper bag” on the trail.

Mitt Romney has to prove himself as a real Christian to a generally
unfriendly-to-Mormon-base, which he will do by reinforcing his
support for a federal marriage amendment banning gay marriage.

According to the slate of issues to be covered at the summit, one
would assume that issues like the war in Iraq or the faltering
economy don’t matter nearly as much to evangelical Christians as
the private lives of their neighbors do. Time will tell, but I hope
that this election will not be decided by people’s fear
and ignorance. I don’t think we can take another four years of