Conservatives consider 3rd-party run
Conservatives consider 3rd-party run
By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer Mon Oct 1, 5:01 PM
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
Associated Press Writer Angela Delli Santi in Dennis
Township, N.J., contributed to this report.