GOP Meltdown

I have written previously about my views on social conservatives abandoning the party in 2008 if the Republican nominee is Rudy Giuliani. I have been interested in the various articles about why they would, or wouldn’t go through with that threat. Some of the people suggesting that this is a bluff, or a poor choice, show that they do not really understand the people who are set against Giuliani. I have read some columnists who think that this is just a childish stunt. Others believe that the social conservatives have been given short-shrift in the GOP coalition and are not surprised by their desire to flex their muscles.

I argued that the social conservatives needed to support a single candidate rather than just opposing a single candidate. It has been nice to see others who feel the same way. Another convincing suggestion for social conservatives is that they need to work harder at winning the hearts and minds of other factions of the GOP coalition.

Based on what I am hearing I would bet on one of four candidates getting the Republican nomination: Rudy Giuliani – if the social conservatives don’t coalesce around another candidate, Mitt Romney – if they are really afraid of Rudy, Mike Huckabee – if they just can’t bring themselves to back a Latter Day Saint, or Ron Paul – if his extremely committed and growing core of followers can break through to mainstream voters (meaning those who are more laid back about their politics and thus are less likely to go seeking a candidate who is not at the top of the MSM listing of candidates).

Because I don’t believe that social conservative leaders are bluffing about Giuliani, I predict that all of the other Republicans have a better shot in the general election that Rudy does.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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12 Responses to GOP Meltdown

  1. Reach Upward says:

    I agree that it’s far better for a group to support a single candidate than to oppose a single candidate. I also agree that social conservatives should get busy and convince others of their issues and/or put forward their own candidate.

    One problem with this last suggestion is that many that are not social conservatives see GW Bush as the religious Right’s guy. And at this point, they’re not too enamoured of him. They’re thinking that if this is what social conservatives have to offer, they’re not interested.

    I do not believe many social conservatives will support Ron Paul. His whatever goes approach to moral issues simply isn’t going to play well with this crowd. I think you discount Fred Thompson too easily. He is from the South. He got important blocks of social conservatives to back him in his U.S. Senate campaigns in Tennessee.

    I had dismissed the social conservative threat to support a third party candidate to be little more than rhetorical bullying. But after hearing a couple of their influential leaders yesterday, I’m thinking that they’re more serious than I thought. And by the way, they like GW Bush’s record on social issues, as is noted in this article.

  2. Reach Upward says:

    I’ve got to admit that after seeing what some of the leaders of the social conservative movement had to say about their third party threat, I now think they’re a lot more serious than I previously thought. This is more than just idle rhetoric. They actually might take action that would ensure another Clinton presidency.

    I agree that these folks would do better to line up behind a candidate than to stand shoulder to shoulder in opposition to a candidate. I also agree that they would do better to win others to their issues than to threaten them. They could actually put forward their own candidate and stand solidly behind that person.

    One problem with this last suggestion is that many people outside of the movement see GW Bush as the religious Right’s guy. And frankly, at this point they’re not too thrilled about the idea of getting another president like him.

    I think you miscalculate the ability of Ron Paul to appeal to social conservatives. His whatever goes attitude to moral issues simply won’t appeal to many of these folks. I think also that you ignore the ability of Fred Thompson to appeal to this group. He is from the South and he has a track record of getting significant blocks of religious conservatives to vote for him in his U.S. Senate campaigns in Tennessee.

  3. David says:

    You raise a good point about the perception that Bush is the candidate of the religious right. They would have to convince people that they would not pick another Bush if they hope to convince others to back their candidate.

    I may not have been clear before, but the chances of Ron Paul getting the nomination are not connected to any backing by the social conservatives. I tied Romney and Huckabee nominations to their getting backing by the social conservatives, but a Paul nomination would come from completely outside the normal channels of primary politics. I’m not saying that the chances of this happening is very high, only that in my view it is more likely than any of the other candidates breaking through (besides those I listed).

    I’m not really surprised that someone would bring up Fred Thompson. It’s not that I underestimate his ability to get religious conservatives behind him – it’s that everything I have seen of his candidacy is more hype than substance. The minute he became official everything seemed to deflate. The “knight on a charger” turned out to be not at all exciting over the rest of the candidates. Besides, his reputation for loose personal morals developed after he had been elected to the Senate. I think he was more appealing to religious conservatives back when he was running for Senate than he is now.

  4. One thing about social conservatives is that they are ideologically motivated. Political pragmatism means nothing to them. They sincerely believe that America’s future is their birthright. They believe that this Republic of ours is destined to be the great benefactor of their Christian view of the world.

    Just as the Taliban would love to use the apparatus of the state to enforce their views upon any public they can gain power over, the Christian right would do the same. Zealots of any stripe are traditionally intolerant of opposing views.

    The challenge for Utahns of the Mormon stripe, is to gauge the degree to which these zealots will tolerate Mormonisms own tenets and beliefs. They share alot of common values, but Mormons have a different view of the nature of God and a different view of the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Can zealots overlook those differences and embrace their similar values is ultimately the question that I for one have no answer for.

  5. David says:

    I have no doubt that your comparison of conservative Christians to the Taliban would have some people howling in protest, but it is fair to compare people from any theological background who would force their religious views on those who believe differently.

    My own theology holds the right to choose as one of the most important gifts from God. The Christian (or any other religion) who would force others to pray as he does is not one bit better than the atheist who would condemn any theist for praying in public settings (so long as those praying do not insist upon the participation of the public).

    Perhaps this emphasis on personal choice explains the lure of libertarianism for me.

  6. Reach Upward says:

    I agree that Thompson is a lot more fizzle than substance. But he still commands much more respect in polls than Romney; at least at present.

    Obi Wan makes a good point about ideological motivation. But at least some leaders in the Christian Right were willing to hold their noses and join hands with Mormon Church representatives in standing behind their push for a constitutional amendment to defend traditional marriage.

  7. Jason Black says:

    Reach Upward,

    There’s no question that, if polling data this early can be relied on, that Thompson looks stronger than Romney and others. But please don’t forget that early polling data are horribly inaccurate.

    Remember who was winning the Democratic primaries in 2000? Kerry’s numbers were below the radar, yet he walked away with it. Clinton and Reagan both had below 20% by this time in their respective primaries.

    Nationwide polling data are, for me, no indication of a candidate’s viability. I look instead at their support in early campaign states (where they’ve campaigned, and where people know who they are), their campaign organization, and the money race (an indication of how many people like the candidate enough to put their money where their mouth is). Look into those areas, and Thompson is not a relatively viable candidate.

  8. David says:

    I’m not one of those who says that the polls are meaningless, but at this stage in the race much of those poll numbers is based on name recognition and pre-conceived notions. Once the race really gets serious as we near the actual primary and caucus votes the fizzle is going to collapse. Only the campaigns with some solid campaign organization and support will sustain their poll numbers. Giuliani has that organization, Romney has that organization, Thompson does not seem to have the solid campaign machinery to support himself in the heat of the race.

    Now we will get to see if the Christian right will be willing to “hold their noses” enough to push for a Mormon president and not just a constitutional amendment that the LDS church supports.

  9. Ron Paul has the best chance of beating Hillary or whoever the Democrats put up, because he is clearly distinguished from all other republican candidates.

    1. Giulani can’t win because he got his clock cleaned by Hillary in the New York senate race.

    2. Mitt Romney can’t win, because used car salesmen don’t do well in presidential elections. Most non-Mormons won’t vote for him because he’s a mormon, but most Mormons will vote for him because he’s a Mormon, although deep-thinking Mormons won’t vote for him because he’s a socialist Mormon.

    3. Like Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee is also an eloquent candidate who doesn’t just say it for the cameras–he really means it–but he can’t raise nearly the funds that Ron Paul can (so I’m not sure how he is currently higher in the polls than Ron–it’s likely that they’ll switch places as Ron continues to climb).

    If the GOP really wants to avoid meltdown, it’s got to stop trying to please itself, and rather start pleasing the American people. The American people would thrive with Ron Paul as president.

  10. David says:

    Frank has just demonstrated why I listed Ron Paul as one of the four alternatives to secure the Republican nomination. He won’t get it based on the traditional campaign calculus, but his supporters are vocal and zealous in their support. What we can’t tell right now is whether their zeal can overcome the traditional campaign machinery that favors the media-labeled front runners.

    In answer to Frank’s question (from point #3) I believe that there are two reasons why Mike Huckabee is still higher in the polls than Ron Paul. First, he fits the mold of a traditional Republican dark-horse candidate and though the media likes an underdog story they wrote off any chance of Ron Paul appealing to Republicans from the beginning of the cycle so he has had about the same coverage from traditional media as Mike Gravel which means that his name-recognition nationwide is still lower than Huckabee’s. Second, Mike Huckabee has executive experience as governor of Arkansas which gives him a small boost over candidates without executive experience, especially in the early stages of the race. I would not be surprised to see Ron Paul overtake Huckabee in the polls unless Huckabee can start bringing in a lot more cash than he has been.

    As a side note on Ron Paul, I wonder how many voters have considered how much he would shake up the general election. His unwavering opposition to the war in Iraq is probably not very helpful in his quest to secure the Republican nomination, but in the general election that stance would virtually silence one wing of the Democratic base. Ron Paul is more anti-war than any of the Democratic candidates.

  11. Reach Upward says:

    It would be exciting to see Ron Paul perform the way Frank theorizes. But I’m not getting my hopes up.

    I remember another non-establishment GOP candidate that had very enthusiastic and vocal supporters. In 1992 Bo Gritz was all the rage with the right wing of the conservative wing of the GOP. Judging by the yard signs, billboards, and advertising — at least in Utah — you’d have thought he was the front runner. When all was said and done, he pulled in 3.84% of the vote in Utah and 2.13% in Idaho, but only 0.1% nationwide.

    I’m not suggesting any similarities between the personalities and politics of Gritz and Paul; I’m merely pointing out that non-establishment candidates face a massive hurdle. It is my experience that most supporters of non-establishment candidates live in denial of how great this hurdle is. I’m not suggesting that they give up. But they should be realistic.

  12. David says:

    Though I was barely too young to vote at the time, I remember all the excitement among some of my relatives who were supporters of Bo Gritz.

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