Yesterday, the Carpetbagger Report was quoting an NBC story titled "2008 GOP Field Disappoints Some Conservatives" (Subhead: "No Bona Fide Social Conservative Among the '08 Republican Favorites"). A day later, here's Michael Graham, a right-wing talk-show host (and occasional on-air Muslim-basher, so you know his social-conservative bona fides are in good order), writing in the Boston Herald that Mitt Romney would be perfectly satisfactory to evangelicals:
...in America today, where religion and faith are under constant media assault, the question evangelical voters are asking isn't "Christian vs. Jew" or "Methodist vs. Mormon," but rather "God or no God?" For values voters, the battle is between people who value faith and those who either ignore it or are actively hostile toward it.
Romney is an ally to evangelicals not because he is or isn't a Christian, but because he's a conservative who believes in God and takes his faith seriously....
Don't believe me? Then explain to me why the most popular Democrat among southern evangelicals today is Joe Lieberman.
Sen. Lieberman may not spend much time at Wednesday night Bible study, but evangelicals admire him because he takes his Judaism seriously....
Graham isn't alone. A week ago, Gary Bauer told two reporters for the Christian-right Agape Press that he would consider voting for a Mormon, and a week earlier, there was this at CNN:
The Rev. Jerry Falwell, an evangelical who founded the Moral Majority, said he expects Christian conservatives will focus more on Romney's personal morality and his current views than his past statements or his faith.
"We're not trying to find a Sunday school teacher in chief; we're trying to find a commander in chief," said Falwell, who traveled to Massachusetts last month to meet with Romney. Also attending the meeting were Franklin Graham, Gary Bauer, Lou Sheldon, Richard Land and other conservative social and religious leaders.
If Giuliani loses the nomination, it'll happen because religious-right leaders send out signals that Romney is the acceptable choice, in terms of both electability and passing litmus tests. (Romney is moving to the right on abortion and gay marriage, whereas Guiliani isn't, and that shift seems to be winning him converts. McCain, of course, said he'd support the South Dakota abortion law, but the simple fact is that nobody on the right likes him.)
(And If you're wondering why Romney's flip-flopping isn't being met with skepticism, here's my theory, based on many comments I've read at Free Republic and elsewhere: Right-wingers think a Republican simply has to espouse social-liberal positions to win over all of us psycho loonies who live up here in the Northeast. Those who are willing to embrace Giuliani regularly say this in reference to him.)
Michael Graham tells us this, by the way, about Romney's appeal in the Bible Belt:
There's ... his central casting presidential good looks; his gorgeous wife and their five strapping sons; his record of business success and his highly-praised oversight of the 2002 Olympics.
Chris Matthews may not have picked up on this yet, but rich, handsome, successful white guys aren't exactly anathema to southern conservatives.
Maybe being (or strutting around like) an alpha dog is the real GOP-base litmus test.