Which VP will keep Southern Baptists on-side?
Mike has alerted me to a fascinating CBS News interview with Richard Land, who chairs the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the ‘public-policy wing’ of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the US, and they weild significant political influence over the Republican Party.
“CBSNews.com: A number of evangelicals and leaders of what used to be called the religious right have said that what they’re really looking for–to determine whether they hold they nose when they vote for McCain, or whether they go in enthusiastically and bring their friends–is the person he chooses to be his running mate. What are you and the people you represent looking for in that running mate?
Richard Land: First of all, I agree with that assessment. I think that the vice presidential choice that John McCain makes is probably the most important choice he’s going to make in this entire campaign. Because he has no room for error, no margin for doubt. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it will confirm the unease and the mistrust that some evangelicals–and don’t forget this, social conservative Catholics–feel about McCain.
If he picks a pro-life running mate, it will help to ease their concerns and confirm to them that, while he may not have been their first choice, he may not have been their second choice, that it’s better to vote for a third class fireman than it is to allow a first class arsonist to become president.”
Land is very clear in the interview that he does not endorse candidates, but he elucidates the views of his organisation’s members, and explains what will motivate them. Unsurprisingly, it is primarily whether candidates are pro-life or pro-choice, which gives a somewhat binary view of acceptability for the Vice Presidency.
Land is honest about who would pass this test, and who would not, and seems not to care about the faith of candidates, but rather the positions to which it leads them. Joe Lieberman is complimented but not suitable in Land’s eyes for VP, AG, or a SCOTUS seat, whereas another practising Jew, Eric Cantor (R, VA-07), is highly recommended. Mitt Romney‘s Mormonism would be a problem for a minority of Southern Baptists, says Lands, but he feels that this should not exclude Romney from consideration.
In facing Obama, whom he thinks is the most pro-choice candidate in history, he thinks that a CEO would be less than suitable, and indicates a preference for Governor Sarah Palin, both for her stance on life issues and gun control. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist preacher, is also touted.
It seems quite clear that, whilst McCain needs to be careful not to appear to have been pulled too far to the Right, and whilst he should avoid alienating people, that the Southern Baptists work in a different way to most voters. A poor choice by McCain to his right could alienate centrists and Independents on a sliding scale. Picking a VP who does not beat the drum on overturning Roe v Wade could see turnout by some of the most active Republican supporters fall of a cliff.
He has an unenviable choice ahead of him.
Vice-Presidential betting can be found by clicking here