This story is based upon an interview done by a GR Press reporter with two different people who called themselves “Evangelical Christians.” Does interviewing just two people seem representative of all Evangelicals? The article mentions early on that Huckabee “Considered the longest of long shots a few months ago, the Baptist minister has rocketed up in the polls as Christian conservatives flocked his way.” There is no verification of which polls the Press article is talking about. Two sentences later it says, “Many analysts doubt his ability to sustain a campaign through the Feb. 5 “super primary” in which 23 states will hold contests,” but the article never referes to which analysts. The only analyst cited in the story is Bill Ballenger from Inside Michigan Politics.
The article then goes on to sum up the evangelical credentials of the GOP candidates. Issues that are mentioned include abortion, stem cell research, gay rights, and McCain’s military service. The reporter does not source any of the claims made about where candidates stand on these issues. For instance, the article says that Rudy Giuliani “supports abortion and gay rights,” but there is no mention of how Giuliani supported these as Mayor of New York. In fact, one could draw the opposite conclusion from Giuliani’s website. The article also fails to mention that a major Evangelical, Pat Robertson, has endorsed Giuliani. When looking online I could find evangelicals endorsing Mitt Romney, even though the two that are interviewed for the GR Press article don’t like Romney. The story mentions most of the GOP candidates, but only glosses over their position on issues. Is it clear from reading this story what Evangelicals consider to be core values? Does this story provide useful information for those wanting to make an informed vote?
Hudsonville resident Lambert Schut is like a lot of other West Michigan evangelical Republicans.
He wants a presidential candidate who fits his core beliefs on issues such as abortion and family values. But he also wants one who can win.
“We don’t really have a candidate that is standing out,” said Schut, 58, a member of Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church in Hudsonville.
“It’s going to be hard for the Republicans.”
With Michigan’s Jan. 15 GOP primary two weeks off, Schut leans toward former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — who could turn the GOP field upside down if he can pull an upset in Thursday’s Iowa caucuses.
Considered the longest of long shots a few months ago, the Baptist minister has rocketed up in the polls as Christian conservatives flocked his way.
But the Huckabee campaign is not well-funded, and he has virtually no organization in Michigan. He is just now getting the scrutiny of a top-tier candidate, leading to a stumble or two on foreign policy.
That leaves a field whose credentials still look shaky to a voting bloc that was critical to the 2000 and 2004 elections of President Bush. Which way Christian conservatives go will sway results not only in Michigan but could decide which party seizes the White House.
“They (Christian conservatives) are very important to whoever wins in Michigan,” said Lansing political analyst Bill Ballenger.
“It’s anybody’s ballgame at this point.”
The remaining major Republican candidates have their work cut out if they are to gain the faith of this key constituency.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is thrice married, carried on a messy public affair as mayor and supports abortion and gay rights. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains suspect because he backed abortion rights in his 2002 campaign for governor, also, perhaps, because of his Mormon faith. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson — once thought to be this constituency’s likely choice — has been criticized as uninspired in debates and wooden on the stump.
That could leave an unexpected path for Arizona Sen. John McCain. Given up for dead this summer, McCain has forged a comeback and could be poised to challenge Romney in New Hampshire.
If he pulls off another primary win here like his 2000 upset of Bush, McCain’s campaign could be off and running. A loss here could be crippling to Romney, who touts his Michigan roots and kicked off his campaign here.
But McCain has never been a favorite of evangelicals, despite a lengthy record opposing abortion and military service that includes 5 1/2 years captivity in North Vietnam.
He recently courted this group with a TV ad in which McCain recounted the time a guard at the POW camp where he was being held drew a cross in the dirt and he remembered “the true light of Christmas.”
In Michigan, McCain and Romney boast the deepest campaign organizations. Romney carries endorsements from U.S. Reps. Vernon Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, and Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland, and has begun airing a TV spot in Michigan that links him with his father, George Romney, who was Michigan governor from 1963 to 1969.
McCain boasts the backing of Republican National Committee members Chuck Yob and Holly Hughes and plans a Jan. 9 rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Sandwiched between Iowa and New Hampshire and the Feb. 5 multi-state slugfest, Michigan could have a lot to say about which Republican marches on.
Michigan’s Democratic primary is much less likely to have an impact on the nomination. Because the date is earlier than national party rules allow, Democratic officials last month voted to strip Michigan of its delegates to the national convention. State party leaders expect that to be reversed, but former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama still are boycotting the contest.
With no real race on the Democratic side, independents and perhaps some Democrats could be induced to cast a vote in the GOP primary. “The question is, how many Democrats cross over?” Ballenger said.
In the meantime, Republicans such as Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church member Mark Bussis and his wife, Debra, hold certain principles for which they will not compromise. The passion of these beliefs typifies many in this church, whose steeple rises in one of the most conservative corners in Ottawa County, arguably Michigan’s most conservative county.
“We would like to believe that the person voted into office is a person of strong convictions and faith, and would truly seek God’s will as they govern,” said Mark Bussis, a Hudsonville resident.
That leaves him leaning toward Huckabee. Giuliani, he says, is “too liberal” in his social principles. Romney “seems too slick.”
He calls Thompson “a possibility” but said he would not support McCain.
Things were much more settled the last two election cycles, when high turnout by Christian conservatives was pivotal to narrow wins by Bush in 2000 and 2004.
If disillusioned evangelicals sit this one out, the GOP is in trouble.
The Rev. Tyler Wagonmaker, pastor of Beaverdam Christian Reformed, wonders just how many of his parishioners will be engaged this time around.
A few months ago, Wagonmaker said: “None of the candidates excited me.”
He’s warming up to Huckabee. He’s “concerned” about McCain’s support for embryonic stem cell research but called him an “honorable man” that he could support.
But Giuliani and Romney?
Calling Giuliani’s support for abortion rights a “deal breaker,” Wagonmaker said he would probably not vote if he were the nominee.
As for Romney, “He seems like a man without a conscience. I simply can’t trust him.”