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Some evangelicals back Bush as Republican most likely to win

WASHINGTON (BP)–A front-page New York Times article Nov. 7 reported that prominent conservative leaders, evangelical Christians and the National Right to Life Committee are working behind the scenes to persuade their backers to support Texas Gov. George Bush as the Republican most likely to win the White House next year.
With candidate Patrick J. Buchanan having announced his intention to seek the Reform Party’s nomination, many conservatives and evangelicals are concerned that Buchanan, if successful, could drain enough votes from the Republican nominee to allow a Democrat to be elected, as happened when Bill Clinton first ran for the White House with the Reform Party’s Ross Perot in the 1992 race.
Buchanan, who has hosted the CNN program “Crossfire,” is strongly pro-life and touts many conservative positions and, thus, could attract many evangelical and conservative voters if he wins the Reform Party nomination.
Conservative leaders and many evangelicals are telling their supporters to put aside misgivings that Bush is not sufficiently pro-life, the New York Times reported. The article quotes Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, as saying, “My impression among evangelicals and Southern Baptists is that they are at this point satisfied that Gov. Bush is strongly pro-life.” Land further said Bush “is committed to changing the hearts and minds of Americans on this issue and that he believes we cannot substantially change the law until we change hearts and minds.”
While the article stated that Land, because he is an SBC official, would make no endorsement, Land noted during his Nov. 8 “For Faith & Family” radio broadcast that he never endorses candidates and would not make an exception in this case.
“It’s the George Bush campaign’s job to convince Southern Baptists and evangelicals, not mine,” Land said he told the reporter, Richard Berke. His comment, however, was not included in the article.
Land said that as an evangelical leader, he should “never endorse candidates, but instead, we should be concerned about whether candidates endorse us and whether the candidates are going to support our values and our beliefs and our convictions.” Land said on the radio broadcast, “… our allegiance doesn’t belong to any political party. It doesn’t belong to any politician. Our allegiance belongs to God and his Word, and we should seek candidates who endorse our values and our beliefs and our convictions.”
In recent newsletters, the nation’s largest antiabortion group, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), has urged its readers not to stray to a third party candidate. While the group does not endorse Bush, it specifically urges its followers to stay away from third parties.
“The responsibility for inflicting President Bill Clinton on this nation belongs not only to those who voted for Clinton directly,” a story in a recent newsletter published by the NRLC states. “It must be shared by those who made Clinton’s election possible indirectly by casting a third-party vote that had the effect more of punishing than actually electing someone.”
The NRLC’s newsletter article further states that “if Al Gore or Bill Bradley or some other proabortionist wins the presidential election in 2000, the eight years of pro-life misery under Clinton will turn into 12 or even 15 years of misery.”
In another NRLC newsletter, the group called for its members, on behalf of unborn children, to oppose Buchanan because “he will only take away votes from a pro-life candidate who can win.”
Two other Republicans, Steve Forbes and Gary Bauer, are trying to make hay with Bush’s refusal to discuss abortion in-depth by pointing out in their campaign literature how strongly pro-life they are. Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., also is pro-life, but has chosen, like Bush, to downplay the issue on the campaign trail.
Several prominent evangelicals, including Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed have endorsed Bush. Others, like Land and James Dobson of Focus on the Family, have declined to endorse any candidate. Dobson, a personal friend of Bauer’s, has not discussed whom he prefers among the Republican candidates on his popular “Focus on the Family” radio talk show heard by an estimated 5 million listeners each day.
The bottom line, Land said, is that evangelical leaders should not be out endorsing candidates, but instead should be seeking candidates who endorse evangelical positions.
“Most politicians are like children. They do what you inspect, not what you expect,” Land said.

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  • Daniel Walker Guido