Friday, November 09, 2007

Report: Dobson to endorse Huckabee


Focus on the Family honcho James Dobson, an extremely influential voice in the Christian conservative community, has reportedly decided to throw his support to Mike Huckabee in the 2008 presidential race.

Sources close to Dobson say that within the next ten days he is coordinating an endorsement plan with the presidential campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. According to a Huckabee insider in Iowa, the event would be staged in that state at a rally, followed by a bus tour across the state, and an appearance by Huckabee on Dobson's radio show, which is heard nationally.

Dobson's endorsement, according to the Huckabee source, could mean millions in fundraising to the campaign, allowing it to compete at the same level with the top tier candidates Huckabee has been inching toward in the polls after a series of strong debate and campaign appearances.

"It would help us get to the Thompson-McCain level if not higher," says the source. "Dr. Dobson's endorsement means that much."

Dobson's endorsement might also create a domino effect, as other evangelical and social conservatives have largely been withholding their endorsements, in part out of fear of angering Dobson and his many supporters who also fill crucial slots in other social conservative organizations run by such prominent leaders as Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins. Both men have been assisting multiple campaigns, with Bauer recently saying that he was providing advice to just about every campaign that sought his counsel.
The significance of a Dobson endorsement of Huckabee cannot be overestimated.

Mike Huckabee is what John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson have been pretending to be, and what Rudy Giuliani can't even pretend to be. He is a socially-conservative Christian whose bona fides on the twin pillars of abortion and homosexuality are unassailable from the right-flank of the Republican Party.

It is likewise impossible to exaggerate how much of a relief a Dobson endorsement of Huckabee will be for rank-and-file Evangelical voters who have been distressed over having to choose from among the front-runners so far. They hate McCain, are extremely disappointed by Thompson, don't trust Romney, and would only vote for Giuliani as a protest against Hillary or Obama.

Mike Huckabee is one of them, and if Dobson really does come out in favor of the former Arkansas Governor, it will change the dynamic of the Republican primary contest.

In fact, it has the potential to negate the "splinter effect" that many social conservatives fear could guarantee a Giuliani nomination.

This week, it seems the religious right, insteaof coalescing, started to splinter.

Paul Weyrich, a religious right pioneer who helped create the Moral Majority, announced his support for Romney, while the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon announced he’s backing Mike Huckabee.

    American Family Association chairman Donald Wildmon, has endorsed the former governor and Baptist minister, saying that Huckabee “understands the needs of our country and has the ability to lead us in meeting those needs.”

    Wildmon’s activism has included organizing boycotts against the entertainment industry, as well as the Ford Motor Company, for sponsoring the homosexual agenda.
Of course, crazed TV preacher Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani, which is having repercussions of its own.

Garance Franke-Ruta notes the train-wreck:

    Marc Ambinder reported this morning that Iowa Christian Alliance president Steve Scheffler is not going to follow Christian Coalition co-founder Pat Robertson’s lead and support Rudy Giuliani. That’s not too much of a surprise, as the Iowa branch of once-vigorous Christian Coalition was so disgusted by the scandals of the national group that it broke with the Coalition and changed its name to the Christian Alliance in March 2006, saying “the Board… would rather function as an independent organization than as an organization shrouded with perceptions contrary to its Christian commitments.”

    Now the Iowa Right to Life Committee’s president, Kim Lehman, says she won’t be following in the footsteps of her former favorite candidate, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, either. Brownback yesterday endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has a 74 percent pro-life voting record according to the Iowa group, and Lehman had previously endorsed Brownback, in January, and then served on his Iowans for Brownback Leadership Committee.
And what about Giuliani? Lehman told Franke-Ruta, “I hate to be the reminder to the Republican Party at the national level, but a lot of their base is staunch pro-life Christians and they’re not going to come out to vote for Giuliani.” She added, “Giuliani will not be getting the votes — I don’t care who the other candidate is. It’s a prediction you can take to the bank.”
What Dobson certainly understands is that many religious conservative voters will simply stay home on election day if Giuliani gets the nomination. And this might come as news to the GOP, but the effect will be the same if the nominee is Mitt Romney. Bible-believing Christians consider Mormonism to be a cult. They will be extremely reluctant to vote for a Mormon, no matter how convincing his "culture of life" and "traditional marriage" rhetoric sounds.

If Dobson follows through with an endorsement of Huckabee, Fred Thompson is finished. He might as well pack up and go home. Romney and Giuliani will have to re-tool their messages. Essentially, they will have to out-crazy each other on immigration, tax cuts, and The Terrorists' War on Us. Romney will have to promise to triple Guantanamo. Giuliani will have to promise to quadruple it.

With a little momentum, Huckabee could become the third-party candidate that Dobson said he would support in opposition to Giuliani. Yes, it would split the Republican coalition, guaranteeing a Democratic victory. But for true believers on the religious right, a Giuliani presidency would be even worse than President Hillary. It would mean permanent political exile if the Republicans ever managed to win a national election with them. They would rather throw 2008 into the ashcan of history than slip so deeply into irrelevance.

The other side of the coin is that a united Christian conservative front could very well propel Huckabee to the position of nominee, rather than spoiler. It will be a lot easier for him to sweet talk the Club for Growth crowd than it will be for Romney or Giuliani to win any meaningful support among religious conservatives.


On second thought...

Tim Minnery, Senior Vice President for Focus on the Family, Dobson's organization, denied on Friday afternoon that Dobson intended to endorse Huckabee in the coming days. Minnery's denial was submitted to the Spectator after Dobson received calls from other social conservative leaders inquiring about the leaked endorsement plans from the Huckabee campaign and Dobson associates. "Dr. Dobson isn't close to an endorsement of anyone in the 2008 race," Minnery wrote in an email to the editor denying there was an endorsement planned.

Contacted again by The American Spectator, those who initially spoke on background about the Dobson endorsement insisted that as of last night, plans were being put in place by the Huckabee campaign for an announcement and endorsement tour, and stood by their account. Rumors about a potential Dobson endorsement of Huckabee have been swirling in Washington for several days, and would have come at a time when other social conservatives are beginning a serious run on endorsement events. The board of the National Right to Life Committee is holding a meeting this weekend to discuss a potential endorsement strategy, and Dr. Donald Wildmon in the past 24 hours has endorsed Huckabee.