December 7, 2007

Setting Priorities

After watching GOP Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's speech yesterday, I come away with a sense of worry. Sure, Mitt delivered a great speech. Inspiring, accurate, and filled with all the buzz words any Christian conservative would want to hear. However, that is exactly the reason why I am worried. While it was loaded with all the necessary qualifiers for a deeply religious man, conservatives need to measure this speech, with some big-picture thinking. Otherwise, we face the distinct possibility of guaranteeing another Clinton presidency. Folks, you need to get your priorities straight.

How do I get there? Out-of-the-box thinking.

Social conservatives define the GOP base and will for the foreseeable future. Their determination and persistence on a candidate with strong moral leadership is indeed a critical issue. However, political savy-ness is not their strong suit and they need to be careful about narrowly insisting on choosing the most social conservative candidate as Commander-in-Chief. There are several reasons why conservatives need to be cautious.

Let's start with the national political atmosphere. Republicans squandered the opportunity they had when they controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency, primarily by becoming exactly what they accused Democrats of being. Now, the general public sees little difference between the two parties. No matter which is office, the perception is they are all corrupt; legislating with their next campaign in mind; spending money like drunken sailors.

Bush ran like a conservative, but governed like an Arlen Specter moderate. Both of them did. So choosing the "conservative" candidate doesn't guarantee you'll get one. W's inability to effectively sell a message, to inspire confidence in his decision-making ability, has hurt the entire GOP brand. It's not all his fault; no other "conservative" politician (currently running for President) has been able to do this either.

But wait, you may be saying, didn't Romney's speech confirm he can sell the message? No.

Mitt did deliver a great speech that even has the local news stations in Philly comparing him to Kennedy, when defending his faith from being the sole definition of his candidacy. Mitt was inspirational in declaring the intentions of the founders about the issue of religious freedom. But here's the problem; it's not all about religion, faith, or moral compass this election cycle.


I am NOT saying that Romney isn't right in-line with conservative viewpoints on immigration, defense, and crime. What I AM saying is in both Romney and Huckabee's case, such fervent religious focus scares the snot out of moderate voters; the kind frequently found in places like Southeastern Pennsylvania - a place the GOP must win if it has any hope of keeping the Oval Office.

Remember Santorum?

Here, the ideal conservative candidate (a conservative Catholic), a man who put his head on the chopping block for Terry Schiavo, swayed voters to drop the gauntlet on his rising star by going too far right. He was well spoken, good looking and -unlike Romney - didn't sound like a typical 90's republican candidate.

"Typical 90's republican?", you may be asking. "What's that?" Glad you asked. There's one keyword which is an obvious hint of being such a candidate.

The word, VALUES.

Romney, as with most conservative candidates over the past decade and a half, use this word - pardon the pun - religiously. The word implies somehow that we republicans believe we are superior morally, but the public no longer believes us. Congressman Tom Foley and Utah Senator Larry Craig, among others, helped secure that concept. So continuing to drop the values phrase, usually coupled with family, falls on deaf ears. Additionally, it brings to moderate political minds, the view that abortion is the only issue which matters to the fill-in-the-blank GOP candidate.

And the Democrats know this. They use it consistently in their ads. Romney's speech, if he's nominated as the GOP candidate, gave voters who might be tuning in for the first time, the picture of a candidate that just another religious republican politician. If either he or Huck get the nod, the focus of the opposition will be on the social conservative aspect of the candidate, and not the security aspect.

In most election cycles, this conservative wouldn't have an issue with that debate. But the reality is, now is not the time for abortion or same-sex-marriage, delicate issues which come to mind when religion is the topic, to be the focus of the 2008 Presidential campaign. If it does, Hillary wins.

The focus of next year's election must be security. Immigration, Iran, and the resurgence of Marxist regime's all need to be top priorities, long before reforming the court system or a constitutional convention on securing the sanctity of marriage need to be addressed.

While I like Mitt and don't care about his religious choices, our country can't afford to have the religious distraction take our eyes off of what's really important.

Conservatives need to remember what the real issues are.

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