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2517Conservatives consider 3rd-party run

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  • Greg Cannon
    Oct 1, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071001/ap_po/conservatives_third_party;_ylt=ApXO03Xn9HmSRKzVgq0faa0b.3QA

      Conservatives consider 3rd-party run

      By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer Mon Oct 1, 5:01 PM
      ET

      Some of the nation's most politically influential
      conservative Christians, alarmed by the prospect of a
      Republican presidential nominee who supports abortion
      rights, are considering backing a third-party
      candidate.

      More than 40 Christian conservatives attended a
      meeting Saturday in Salt Lake City to discuss the
      possibility, and planned more gatherings on how they
      should move forward, according to Richard A. Viguerie,
      the direct-mail expert and longtime conservative
      activist.

      Rudy Giuliani, who supports abortion rights and gay
      rights, leads in national polls of the Republican
      presidential candidates. Campaigning in New Jersey on
      Monday, Giuliani brushed aside talk of an upstart
      effort by religious conservatives.

      "I'm working on one party right now — the Republican
      Party," Giuliani said. "I believe we are reaching out
      very, very well to Republicans. The emphasis is on
      fiscal conservatism, which brings Republicans
      together."

      Other participants in the meeting included James
      Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family evangelical
      ministry in Colorado Springs, Colo., and, according to
      Viguerie, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research
      Council, a conservative policy group in Washington.

      Dobson attended the meeting, but is not yet
      participating in any planning for a third party, said
      Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Focus on the Family
      Action. Dobson and others spoke out against the idea
      at the meeting, even though both major parties could
      nominate candidates who back abortion rights and other
      policies that conservative Christians oppose,
      Schneeberger said.

      A spokesman for Perkins did not respond to requests
      for comment Monday.

      Viguerie would not give specifics of the proposal or
      reveal additional names of participants, but said
      President Bush "would not have been elected in '04
      without the people in that room."

      "There is such jaundiced feelings about any promises
      or commitments from any Republican leaders," he said
      in a phone interview. "You could almost cut the anger
      and the frustration with a knife in that room it's so
      strong. Because they don't know what else to do,
      they're talking third party."

      A spokesman for the Republican National Committee did
      not respond to a request for comment.

      The participants were in Salt Lake City for a separate
      meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy,
      a group of conservative business, religious and
      political leaders that was co-founded years ago by Tim
      LaHaye, author of the "Left Behind" series of books.
      Vice President Dick Cheney flew into the city Friday
      to address the group, according to The Salt Lake
      Tribune.

      Christian conservatives, who hold considerable sway in
      the Republican Party, have been deeply unhappy about
      the field of GOP presidential candidates.

      Dobson has said he wouldn't support Giuliani, calling
      the former New York mayor an "unapologetic supporter
      of abortion on demand." Dobson has also rejected
      former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson as wrong on social
      issues, and wouldn't back John McCain because of the
      Arizona senator's opposition to a constitutional
      amendment banning same-sex marriage.

      Viguerie said conservatives "are still open" to former
      Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but said, "we haven't
      seen anything that guarantees that he will hold to the
      positions that he's articulating." Romney has been
      questioned about his record on gay rights.

      However, the proposal to consider a third-party
      candidate comes from anger that the Republicans whom
      Christians have helped elect for decades have failed
      to act on policy issues important to evangelicals on
      abortion, marriage and school prayer.

      "Conservatives have been treated like a mistress as
      long as any of us can remember," Viguerie said.
      "They'll have lots of private meetings with us, tell
      us how much they appreciate it and how much they value
      us, but if you see me on the street please don't speak
      with me."

      A third-party run would be a long shot, requiring
      millions of dollars and challenges to ballot access.
      Such a bid could prove disastrous for the GOP by
      splitting the vote.

      Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the
      Southern Baptist Convention, was not at the meeting.
      But he said no one floating the idea of a third party
      thinks there's much chance the candidate would win. He
      considers the proposal a reaction to "moguls of the
      Republican establishment" who think conservative
      Christians will support the GOP no matter what.

      "A lot of them won't hold their nose and do it," Land
      said.

      ___

      Associated Press Writer Angela Delli Santi in Dennis
      Township, N.J., contributed to this report.