With the announcement that Congressman Mike Pence is not running for president, the 2012 Republican presidential race is officially in motion as a slew of contenders are expected to announce in the coming months that they will or won’t run. Whichever candidate becomes the nominee, it’s almost a guarantee that they will need to be pro-life to win.
Despite massive media attention and buzz and standing atop the polling data for months, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani fell flat on his face in 2008 — spending hundreds of millions of dollars to accumulate one delegate and be brushed aside early by pro-life candidates. Former candidates or potential candidates ranging from Pete Wilson to Arlen Specter to Steve Forbes (in 1996) have failed to win the Republican nomination on platforms opposed to the pro-life views of a strong majority of grassroots Republicans.
That makes it surprising that Washington Examiner writer Michael Barone would contend “old rules don’t apply to” the 2012 Republican primary election campaign even though every Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan in 1980 has been pro-life.
“The next rule that needs to be debunked is that Republican candidates must pass a litmus test on cultural issues, especially abortion. This was true in 1988, 1996 and 2000, when religious conservatives were a newly energized political force and one stirred to action by Bill Clinton’s misconduct,” he writes.
“But Sept. 11 changed a lot of things, including this old rule. A pro-choice stand on abortion didn’t prevent Rudy Giuliani from leading Republican polls until November 2007, when his appointee as police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, was indicted. And going to all 99 counties swearing he was a right-to-lifer didn’t save Mitt Romney in the majority-religious conservative Iowa caucuses in January 2008,” he adds.
Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council takes umbrage with the analysis and says Barone is usually on track with campaign analysis but, “His one blind spot seems to be his dislike and disdain for social issues.”
“He misses the mark by pointing to 2008 candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. First off, most polls show people didn’t know Rudy Giuliani views on abortion – a view the pro-abortion former mayor tried to foster by taking stands against low hanging fruit items like taxpayer funding of abortion,” McClusky says. “Secondly, when it came to the voters Rudy Giuliani crashed and burned, so he might not be the best example.”
“His second candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, did work the voters in Iowa hard that he was now a die hard right-to-lifer,” McClusky continues. “Problem is his well known record as Governor (including passing the abortion funding Massachusetts health care law) and previous statements as an abortion supporter were well known in Iowa, in large part to his opponents. Lastly, like Rudy Giuliani, Governor Romney never got the nomination – that went to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who, while more moderate on some issues, is known as a pro-lifer.”
McClusky points out that all of the serious potential candidates for president this time around are avowed pro-life advocates including Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, and others.
“Two years later if you look at the numerous candidates who should be taken seriously and who could be or want to be the Republican candidate in 2012 (or even 2016) they are all social conservatives. On this matter, Mr. Barone misses the mark by a mile,” he said.
Barone also claims the Tea Party movement will make it so pro-life issues won’t matter.
“The financial crisis and protracted recession have once again changed the focus of Republican voters. Polls have showed that Tea Party activists, who number in the hundreds of thousands, tend to be cultural conservatives, but they moved into politics to oppose the stimulus package and Obamacare, not abortion,” he said.
Barone forgets the swift condemnation that came from a wide range of Tea Party groups after a handful of Tea party activists signed on with a conservative pro-gay organization to say social issues should take a back seat. Further, polling data shows Tea Party activists are considerably pro-life and the opposition to abortion-funding in Obamacare has been responsible for a large portion of the opposition to it.