I’m not sure how I missed this Boston Globe article:
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has stepped up his efforts to woo evangelicals in response to the threat by some Christian conservative leaders to back a third-party candidate.
The third-party threat grew yesterday after a key evangelical leader, James Dobson, said that he and other social conservatives had agreed to support a “minor party” candidate if the Republicans choose a presidential nominee who is not conservative enough.
Dobson’s statement is viewed as significant in the Romney campaign because Dobson has ruled out supporting GOP candidates John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson, but has left open the possibility of supporting Romney.
“Dr. Dobson is keeping an open mind on Mitt Romney, and I think that is because they do share in common so many values,” Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said yesterday.
Dobson, the leader of the high-profile Focus on the Family, whose radio program has 1.5 million listeners, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
In response, here are a few fairly random thoughts.
This Globe piece, naturally, doesn’t fail to mention that Governor Romney has changed his mind on abortion–which is part of what makes him imperfect (imagine that, in a fallen world!) and, thus, part of what is making conservative evangelical leaders “disenchanted.” And we continue to get a lot of mail on this. I keep thinking, though: Even if you think Governor Romney has cynically “flip-flopped” on abortion, do you really think he’d do it again as president? Especially after taking all this flak for becoming pro-life? To do so would defy common sense, not to mention political history. Reagan, Bush, Gephardt–all of these political leaders morphed on abortion, but none re-morphed. And for good reason. If a President Romney did it, he’d be pilloried, ridiculed, and probably denied renomination. The man would have to be a total goofball to do something so ridiculous. Say what you want about him–for instance, I’ve already admitted that he is, as I am, a complete nerd–but goofballs don’t have the success he’s had in the private sector.
Now let me make an even more controversial statement: I don’t believe most of the evangelicals who have so far refused to support Governor Romney are actually worried, if you pin them down, that he might turn into a pro-choicer in the Oval Office. It would be insane for him to do that. And while I don’t think all conservative evangelicals necessarily believe, as we do, that the man has genuinely changed his mind on the merits of legally restricting abortion, I don’t think they think he’s insane. Rather, I think they’re using this issue as a crutch so they don’t really have to think through the issue of supporting a Mormon.
Keeping the controversy coming, I frankly don’t begrudge them that crutch. I didn’t find it easy to decide to support Governor Romney. It helped me a lot that one of the people I respect most in the world–David French–supports him. But not everybody has a friend and mentor like David. I can understand why a few months or years ago, it made more sense to wait for a “better option” rather than think through this complex issue, one Al Mohler called “an excruciating decision.”
However, crutch time is over, folks. Now it’s crunch time. Iowa is in a few months. The field is formed. No “conservative messiah” is coming. You’ve got to work with, as Donald Rumsfeld might have said, the candidates you’ve got. And especially if your name is James Dobson, your options are diminishing. You’re down to Governor Romney and then a whole bunch of folks who have shown no aptitude whatsoever at putting a credible campaign together, much less defending the sanctity of life and the institution of marriage on the most inhospitable terrain in the country, past screw-ups notwithstanding. It’s time to get serious and pick one of these guys. There simply is no presidential candidate out there who agrees with both our theology and our agenda and has shown himself to have any chance at all of success–and there are several, in both parties, who disagree with both and do have a great chance of success. In fact, one of them is the national frontrunner in each party.
Under such circumstances, and with as little time as we have, “excruciating” decisions have to be made and difficult issues have to be thought through. And if we drop the untenable idea that our president has to be someone we wouldn’t mind as our pastor, the choice is clear. I know it’s not easy to get there, but it’s time to get started. Drop your crutches, folks, and your non-arguments about flip-flops. While we dilly-dally, the other side is amassing tons of money and getting ready to cream us in the House, the Senate, and the White House.