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Thinking about elections

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

As the presidential primaries rapidly approach, the discussion regarding the candidates for President of the United States is starting to really take off.

Just today, the Greenville News is reporting that Dr. Bob Jones, III has endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina (story here). Earlier this week, Hugh Hewitt psted a memo from Mark DeMoss who made also tried to make the case for Romney (story here).

I know that I am a nobody, but I wonder if we are jumping the gun and I also wander if we are backing the wrong guy.

The comment from Dr. Bob that was immediately under the headline in The Greenville News was "This is all about beating Hillary." Mark DeMoss's post indicates that one of his three requirements was that the person must be "someone who can actually win the nomination."

Here is where I think we are coming close to making the same mistake the Democrats made in 2004. If you step into your time machine a minute, you will recall that up until Iowa, Governor Dean was the one with all of the excitement and momentum among the radical leftist base. However, the establishment Dems feared that Dean would be unelectable to the majority of Americans and were pushing for John Kerry instead. The argument was essentially - "This is all about beating George Bush" and the thought was that the base was so infumed in their hatred for Bush that the base was covered so they needed to find someone who could appeal to the uncommitted without bringing too much offense. John Kerry got pushed because he was viewed as the "safe condidate" and those pushing Kerry won the day with their argument.

Unfortunately for the Dems (but fortunately for thinking Americans), this stategy failed. I think that part of the reason this strategy failed was that a winning candidate needs to be someone that the people feel that they can support - and that they are willing to work for and to tell their friends about, etc. I actually think that Dean may have been able to do a better job against Bush because he was clear on his opposition to the War, he was clear on the other issues. Bush's team managed to successfully go after the fact that Kerry was just playing politics with so many issues and "flip flopping."

It looks to me that this same type of thing is what is happening at this time in the Republican primaries. The social conservatives are trying to find a way to beat Guiliani, who has staked out some pretty liberal social views on abortion, gay marriate, etc. In order to do so, the thinking seems to be that they need to all become unified around one of the socially conservative candidates so that this turns into a two man race - Guiliani vs. Romney -with the idea that if all the social conservatives eggs are in one basket, the basket will be heavy enough to tip the scale.

The problem with this is that I do not believe that Romney has the ability to rally the rank and file social conservatives - especially the socially conservative evangelical voters - to his side.

Here are some reasons why I question the ability of Mitt Romney to excite the socially conservative rank and file are as follows.

1. His record and rhetoric as a social conservative is wishy-washy at best. If you take the time to watch the videos at YouTube of Romney's debates in Massachusetts, you will find that repeatedly he trumpets his views as pro-choice. "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose." (Here is one of many videos that the left will use against him on this - and that causes the little guys like me to wonder where the guy really stands on this issue). I recognize that he is claiming to be pro-life now, but this debate was in 2002 - we are not talking that long ago and the switch in positions at this venture (especially when he talks in other debates about how long his family has stood on this issue - since his mother ran for Senate) will seem too convenient and politically motivated for the average Joe.

2. He has not galvinized the base already with all the money he has on his side. Romney has spent a whole lot more money than Brownback, Huckabee, etc., but he still has not managed to stir up the excitement. The pundits out there keep talking about how great it is that he has raised a lot of money (although a lot of it seems to be money he has loaned to himself). That is true, but what kind of return is he getting for that money? In the August Iowa straw poll, Huckabee came in second with 18.1% and Brownback came in third with 15.3%.

3. Like it or not, the reality is that the Mormonism of Romney will cause many to be cautious about voting for him. Not just among conservative evangelical voters, but in the general election as well. I understand that "we are voting for a President, not a Pastor" has a nice ring to it, but that line did not work when people wanted to dismiss the character issue in regards to Clinton. The reality is that many Americans vote on how they percieve a guy as much as they do on the person's policies. This is especially true of the folks in the "undecided land" who wait until the last month to make their decisions. For many of these people, the election all comes down to their impression of a person - and for many, that impression of Romney as the great Mormon leader will be the one that holds them back.

Imagine if the guys who seem to be trying to get the bandwagon going for Romney would put their efforts behind someone who evangelical Christians could support, rather than a man whose pro-life creditials are shaky at best?

Just my thoughts,



Don Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Sansone said...


I agree that the electorate is still polarized and I agree that there is a strong antipathy towards Hillary. I think that works in the conservatives favor - if they can get a guy that conservatives don't feel that have to vote with a clothespin on their nose.

My comment with Dean was not that Hillary will not win the Dem nomination, but that the Dems lost some of their momentum in the election because they picked someone the base was not really sold on. Dean excited the base - as Dean. Kerry merely was the political expedient choice to try to defeat Bush.

My contention is that the do everything you can to defeat a particular person strategy actually hurt the Dems last election - I think they actually had a better chance to win with Dean because he was exciting a new layer of voters for them and he would have been able to stand up as consistent in regards to the War where Kerry was effectively painted as "for it before I was against it."

If the Repubs nominate someone who does not seem to stand on principles because they are concerned about beating Hillary, my guess is that the fatigue factor of spending the whole election focusing on the negative of Hillary will have a deadening effect on the Republican base, and, while the base will vote, they will not be as motivated to work and to convince others.

The message must be more than just "At least he ain't Hillary."

I also agree with you that I could probably vote for any of them vs. Hillary, but I would have to vote holding my nose. I am tired of holding my nose to vote!! When things got so bad in NJ that my "best choice" was radical social liberal Republican Christie Witman, I actually voted third-party (of course, it was clear that it was going to be a large victory so I did not think my protest vote had any chance of changing the outcome of the election).


Don Johnson said...

Hi Frank

Re Dean - Dean didn't excite the base, he excited a radical and noisy fringe of mostly non-voters. I am not sure that Kerry 'excited' anyone, much less the Dem base, but he did get the base vote.

I do agree that a negative election (anybody but Hillary) isn't sufficient. But all of the leading Republicans bring positives to the campaign. Romney: competence, management, personal integrity. Giuliani: leadership, tough on crime/terror. Thompson: conservative ... well, we don't know a lot about him, I guess. McCain: tough on terror/war, leadership, personal story.

Of course, each of them has significant negatives and weaknesses. But their negatives are not 'nationwide' so to speak, like Hillary's are.

I think the election will be a close one, much like the last two, so it is particularly critical in this round that the conservative vote not get sidetracked like it did by the little weirdo from Texas when Clinton was first elected. What was his name? Perot. Without him, I don't think we would have ever had a Clinton presidency.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Peter said...

I'm not sure I agree that Romney is a top Rep candidate. The sense I get from talking to people is that Giuliani and Ron Paul are the top 2. But, be that as it may, as far as I can tell, Ron Paul is the most unapologetically conservative candidate in both social and fiscal matters.

I agree that it's a bit early to whole heartedly endorse a candidate, but I would certainly keep an eye on Ron Paul's campaign.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean they are accepting Mormons as students at BJU?
What ever happened to "Do right to the stars fall?"
What about Huckabee?
At least Dean Taylor stated some CONSERVATIVE friends of BJU would not like the endorsement.
Where does that leave the liberal friends of BJU?
In thier official e-mail they stated that other staff and faculty would vote otherwise.
What is the sense in saying this is not the official opinion of BJU, if your last names is Jones III, is that not official enough?
What about thier nonprofit status?
Is this worth being devisive about?
Maybe BJU can accept some transfer students from Brigham Young.

Frank Sansone said...

Dear Brave Anonymous Poster,

Wow! I was wondering how long it would take before someone like you came out of the woodwork.

You may disagree with the endorsement - I tend to agree with that disagreement.

However, this post shows a lack of reasonable thinking and I hope you re-think the position you are taking.

1. How does the endorsement of Mitt Romney for the office of President have anything to do with accepting the religion of Mormonism or taking transfer students from BYU? Wow! If you read the article that I linked to, Dr. Bob made it very clear that he was not endorsing Romney's false religion. Did having George Bush speak mean that BJU was all the sudden in agreement with the United Methodist Church? Even more importantly, did Christ saying to "render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar" indicate that Christ was for the emporer worship religious system of Rome? Obviously not.

2. What about "Do Right until the Stars fall?" I don't see this as a violation of that famous quote from Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. This endorsement is not a matter of doing something wrong. There is no Scriptural command or principal that is being violated by this endorsement.

3. What about Mike Huckabee? I agree! I think that I would have preferred an endorsement of Huckabee by a surge of social conservatives and believers right about now to see if that might give him a boost before going down the route of Romney. However, I am guessing that the assumption is that Huckabee (like Brownback who is aparently dropping out) is not a viable candidate. I am not sure I agree with that assessment, but a number of people - including some Huckabee supporters - are making that assessment.

4. Regarding the "official position of BJU", it helps to remember a couple of factors.

First, Dr. Bob is no longer the President - Steven is.

Second, it is not uncommon for a leader of an organization to hold to a personal position on an issue that not directly related to the organizations mission without that being considered the official position of the organization. Dr. Bob is not the Pope and does not have any more authority with his personal positions that you or I do. He has made it clear who he is supporting in this election. The students, staff, and supporters are free to do what they want. There is nothing wrong with that. I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. While I cheer for the Eagles, I have no expectation of other people in our church also being Eagles fans - it is my personal position, not an official position of our church. (For the record, most of the football fans in my church are Redskins fans.) I may very well at some point indicate on here who I am supporting for President and the reasons why, but if I do so, I will be doing so as an individual, not as an official statement of the church. (If I posted it on the church's site it may be a different story, but BJU has placed on the website the fact that this was not an official endorsement from the school.)

4. What about their nonprofit status? This would have no effect on that. For that matter, since they already lost their tax-exept status over 20 years ago, they could make it official if they wanted to without it affecting anything.

5. I love your next two comments - especially written next to each other like they were.
"Is this worth being devisive about? Maybe BJU can accept some transfer students from Brigham Young." The only one so far being divisive over this is you - and you do that by implying this is some type of union with Mormonism and BYU.

Please think a little more before you type in the future. You may benefit greatly.