NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Republican John McCain’s choice of a running mate, particularly his or her views on abortion rights, will go a long way toward determining whether evangelicals support him this fall, Richard Land said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” July 22.
The president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission appeared on the program the morning after some news reports said McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, could name his vice presidential selection soon. Reporters Robert Novak and Timothy P. Carney reported July 21 that “sources” close to McCain were “suggesting” McCain would name his choice this week. Other political pundits, though, countered by saying such rumors simply were planted to distract attention away from Democrat Barack Obama’s overseas trip. Politico.com’s Jonathan Martin quoted sources close to McCain as saying he is likely to hold off for now.
Land’s appearance on Fox & Friends also came one day after Focus on the Family’s James Dobson said on his radio broadcast that he “might” endorse McCain. Earlier this year Dobson said he could not vote for McCain.
McCain’s choice of a running mate, Land said, is “critically important” to evangelicals.
“I think it’s one reason why Dr. Dobson said that he might endorse John McCain and [that] he was perhaps leaning towards it,” Land said. “He wants to wait and see what that vice presidential pick is. If [McCain] picks a pro-life vice presidential running mate, that will be an enormous boost. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it will deflate any momentum he’s managed to build among evangelicals.”
There were conflicting reports July 22 as to whether McCain was set to meet the next day with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is pro-life and a possible running mate. Although The Washington Post quoted McCain sources as saying the meeting would take place, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported Jindal as saying no meeting was scheduled.
On his radio program, Dobson and his guest, R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary expressed concerns about Obama’s pro-choice views on abortion. Land said those concerns are justified.
“I think that Sen. Obama is probably the most radically pro-abortion candidate to ever be nominated by a major party,” Land said. “He … voted against the born alive protection act in Illinois, which is an act that says that if a baby manages to survive its abortion, the doctor has to try to save it instead of allowing it to die of neglect or even killing it…. That’s about as radically pro-abortion as you can get.”
Dobson told his radio audience that while he has had strong disagreements with McCain in the past, McCain nonetheless sides with social conservatives on several issues, including his pro-life views on abortion.
“I think Dr. Dobson is coming to the conclusion in sort of nicer terms what I hear all the time from people all across the country who are evangelicals [and that] is, ‘Look, John McCain wasn’t my first choice, John McCain wasn’t my second choice, but I’ll take a third-rate fireman over a first-class arsonist,” Land said. “And they see Barack Obama as a first-class arsonist for the things they believe in.”
A Dobson endorsement of McCain, Land said, would be significant.
“I think it will have more impact with laypeople than it will with anybody else, because Dr. Dobson has a huge following,” Land said. “People trust him, they listen to him…. He … comes into their homes [via radio] and he’s given them advice about their families. It will have a big impact if he chooses to endorse Sen. McCain.”
Land said he does not endorse candidates.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.