Political Land-scape

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial about Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is, in other words, the Baptist interface with Congress and the White House. I've seen Land on TV many times but in this interview he was unusually blunt about the forthcoming presidential campaign. It begins with this:

Rudy Giuliani didn't score many points with social conservatives last week when he issued this impassioned endorsement of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a federal ban on "partial-birth" abortion: "I agree with it." He certainly didn't win over Richard Land, who has said he would never vote for Mr. Giuliani. When people ask the Southern Baptist Convention's representative in Washington why the former New York mayor's promise to appoint strict constructionist judges if he's elected president isn't enough, Mr. Land replies: "If he'll lie to two wives, what makes you think he wouldn't lie to you?"

I was particularly fascinated with Land's view on New Gingrich, whom his allies Richard Land and Jerry Falwell seem to be promoting as their candidate in 2008.

"I am not a big enough hypocrite to have made character an issue with Bill Clinton and turn around and vote for men who broke their oaths to their wives." Having been in his current position since 1988, Mr. Land has had more than enough opportunity to see Mr. Gingrich up close, and he has not been impressed: "When he was speaker, when they went into conference to negotiate, it was always our issues that got negotiated away and his economic issues that didn't."

Mr. Land suggests that Mr. Gingrich was good at paying lip service to evangelicals: "He always understood how important social conservatives were to the coalition." But Mr. Land believes that many of them have learned their lesson: "I think most evangelicals still don't trust him."

Do I detect the beginnings of a split in the social conservative coalition? Read the full story and see what you think. Land seems to be setting up support for Mitt Romney or Fred Thompson. Dobson and Falwell are holding out for Newt Gingrich. Meanwhile conservatives who think winning the Iraq War and defeating terrorism are a higher priority are lining up behind Giuliani.

All this will be sorted out in the primary campaign and by the time Election Day gets here everyone could be united again. If not, a Democrat may coast into the White House.

Returning to his political wonk persona, Mr. Land notes that in 2006, about a quarter of voters identified as white evangelicals, and 70% of them voted for Republicans. The three quarters who didn't identify as white evangelicals voted 61-37 for Democrats. Which means, according to Mr. Land, "that Republicans can't win elections just with evangelicals, but without them, Republicans face a loss of apocalyptic proportions."

No comments: