The EFM Feature

I’m sorry for my posting absence, but I’m glad that Nancy has more than taken up the slack. I’ll explain the reasons for my slower pace soon enough (there’s something rather important brewing . . . and it has nothing to do with the presidential race). In the meantime, however, I wanted to weigh in on the “third party challenger” news that Steve discussed below.
Let’s make one thing clear:there is not going to be a third party challenge from Christian conservatives in 2008. It’s just not going to happen. Christian conservative leaders (nor the rank and file) will not burn their bridges with the Republican party and will not voluntarily step so far out of the political mainstream. Besides, even if a significant number of Christian leaders wanted to try such an effort, the logistical hurdles are huge — especially next year.
So if there’s not going to be a third party challenger, why discuss and why leak it to the Times (where the news would have maximum impact)? The meeting shows that there is genuine alarm amongst conservative Christian leaders at Rudy’s continued broad appeal — even with evangelical voters. There was widespread expectation that Rudy would tank in the polls as soon as conservatives learned about his liberal social stands. Yet he hasn’t tanked. For conservative Christian leaders — all of whom are resolutely pro-life — this is a source of deep concern.
So what do you do with that concern? You send a message, but the message sent is not necessarily to the mass voting public but instead to bedrock conservative activists (who are disproportionately Christian conservatives). The message is pretty simple: Yes, we’re at war, but abortion still matters. A lot. This is especially true when each of the remaining credible conservative challengers is pro-life and strong on the war. It’s not like Republican voters are presented with the awful choice of retreat in the war or retreat on abortion.
Here at EFM we have long considered Rudy to be far more of a threat to capture the nomination than John McCain or Fred Thompson. He’s a great campaigner. He shines in the debates, he has all the right enemies (the New York left just hates the guy), since 9/11 he’s cornered the market on public perceptions of effective leadership in the face of horrific terror, and there’s a deep reservoir of affection for him. Cold-blooded political consultants have long discounted the power of the visceral bond he formed with much of America on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. And those kinds of bonds matter in politics.
The challenge for Governor Romney is to persuade the ordinary American voter that they can love and respect Rudy for all that he did . . . and still vote for someone else. You don’t beat Rudy by trashing him. You beat him by presenting a better alternative.

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