The big cats on the evangelical right spoke out at a breakfast on Wednesday about two of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. According to Gannett News Service political writer Chuck Raasch, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said a Rudy Giuliani candidacy would be "a ticket for Hillary Clinton to win the White House." And Gary Bauer of the 2000 presidential campaign said that the 2002 speech by Sen. John McCain denouncing the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance" has already doomed his candidacy. Now these aren't exactly original political ideas, but considering who is saying them and considering that Bauer has supported McCain in the past, this is pretty big news. Notice the comparison Bauer makes between Giuliani and McCain:
"Senator McCain is a friend of mine and I wish him well," Bauer said. "But the speech in Virginia Beach, which was widely reported as not an attack on Robertson and Falwell but as an attack on Christian conservatives getting involved in politics, hurt him a great deal. ... I think you could argue it effectively ended his chance at getting the nomination. It was widely reported through the Christian media and talked about on Christian radio, and people would certainly tell you that it left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of people whose support he now solicits."
Bauer said that McCain is "obviously" more conservative than Giuliani on social issues that conservatives care about, but "there isn't anything comparable in Giuliani's rhetorical record where he went after Christian conservatives ... I do think that is a factor in holding (McCain) back right now."
According to Raasch, Bauer said the race's current money leader Mitt Romney "is spending a lot of time trying to convince people that (he has) had a road to Damascus and not a road to Des Moines experience, and is in fact pro-life and socially conservative on these other issues." Note that Bauer is not cited saying anything regarding Romney's Mormonism.
In related news, Sen. Bill Frist, former Senate Majority Leader and darling of the religious right, said on his blog Wednesday that Fred Thompson's openly discussing his cancer indicates that he is serious about running for the presidency:
He's a dedicated public servant with true conservative credentials, extraordinary communications skills and a devotion to his principles.
I hope you'll continue to post your statements encouraging Fred to run so that I can share them with him and other supporters across the country.
Again, it is not surprising that Frist is supporting Thompson. It is interesting that Frist is diagnosing from a distance the possibility of a Thompson candidacy. Where have we seen distance diagnosis before?
But back to the Bauer and Perkins breakfast. Also joining them was Prison Fellowship's Mark Earley, who said that all the buzz around a possible Fred Thompson candidacy shows there is a "vacuum" in the Republican race. Again, not shocking analysis, but it is news that religious leaders are recognizing the lack of a strong candidate. What's the big headline going to be from The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman?