Saturday — day two of the 2007 Family Research Council’s ‘Washington Briefing’ (aka the Value Voters Summit) — Evangelicals got the chance to evaluate presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee, two Republicans that embody the quadrennial conservative conundrum: will Republicans vote for the candidate that best represents their core values, or will they vote for the candidate that they feel has the best chance to beat the Democrat nominee?
Giuliani gave a passable speech that tried to appease a skeptical crowd, and it was clear that Giuliani was playing defense. He took shots at Romney; “Isn’t it better that I tell you what I really believe, instead of pretending to change all of my positions to fit the prevailing winds?” and laid out his plan to reduce abortions and increase adoptions, telling them “Please know this: You have absolutely nothing to fear from me.”
“People of good conscience come to different conclusions about whether abortions should be legal in some circumstances. But you and I and, I believe, almost all Americans share the same goal — a country without abortion, achieved by changing the minds and hearts of people,” said Giuliani.
“I will support any reasonable suggestion that promises to reduce the number of abortions. I support parental notification and will continue to, and I supported and continue to support the ban on partial-birth abortion”
Giuliani closed with what seemed like a plea, “You and I know that I’m not a perfect person. I’ve made mistakes in my life, but I’ve always done the best that I could to try to learn from them. I pray for forgiveness, I pray for strength, I pray for guidance. I feel my faith deeply, although maybe more privately than some because of the way I was brought up or for other reasons. And I believe that we serve God best by serving others,” he said.
“If we’re honest with each other, trust will follow. We may not always agree. I don’t always agree with myself. But I’ll give you reason to trust me, and you’ll always know where I stand.”
Did they love him? No. Did they hate him? No. His speech was probably good enough to win their votes for the general election should he be the nominee, but not enough to snag social conservative votes in the primary.
Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and tremendous public speaker, had this crowd eating out the palm of his hand. They cheered, they clapped, they shouted amen. These voters are not talking about national security, they are talking about abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research, issues that Huckabee is best on.
“When I hear people say, oh, we don’t want to change the constitution, we don’t want to amend it. Well, it was made to be amended, but let me give you another thought. I’m very tired of hearing people who are unwilling to change the Constitution, but seem more than willing to change the holy word of God as it relates to the definition of marriage,” said Huckabee. The definition of marriage was an issue that Giuliani did not touch upon in his speech.
“We’re defined by what we value, what’s important to us, what’s nonnegotiable for us,” said Huckabee.
Huckabee also touched on the “Fair Tax”, immigration, and the threat from radical Islam. The crowd erupted in applause over and over and remained standing for most of his speech.
“I do not spell G-O-D, G-O-P. Our party may be important, but our principles are even more important than anybody’s political party. Stand by our stuff,” said Huckabee as he finished his 30 minutes speech.
Huckabee dominated in the straw poll results with 488 of the 952 onsite votes (51.26%) beating all 19 candidates.
A new Pew Research poll shows that 43% say social issues will be "very important" to their vote in 2008, conversely the most recent Rasmussen poll places Giuliani ahead of Huckabee (and all other GOP candidates) with 24% support of likely Republican voters. Hoping to capitalize on this disconnect and Republican uncertainty in our candidates, drive by media headlines have read “Giuliani Inspires Threat of a Third-Party Run” and “GOP Argues Over Who is Most Conservative.” The New York Times wrote that “for months, Christian conservatives have been escalating warnings that nominating Mr. Giuliani could splinter the party.”
Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham also spoke on Saturday reminding conservatives that, “Its essential now that you not fall into the trap of burying your heads in the sand and saying that none of the candidates measure up…This is what the elites want in both parties, they want you to sit down.”
Social, economic and defense conservatives need to bridge this gap now by committing to vote for the candidate that best represents these three groups rather than singling out specified issues. A conservative, social or fiscal is still better for the presidency than a liberal candidate any day.