All posts from “January 2012”

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January 31, 2012

Tony Campolo: If Evangelicals Vote Gingrich, Count Me Out

"The need for Red Letter Christians to no longer be labeled 'Evangelicals' became abundantly clear" with S.C. vote, he said.

Tony Campolo has long been one of America's most high-profile evangelical Democrats. From his 1976 campaign for Congress, to his service as spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton amid the Lewinsky scandal, to his work on the 2008 Democratic Party platform committee, his party affiliation has never been in doubt. And while others have questioned his evangelical bona fides (he experienced a heresy trial in the mid-'80s), he has always emphasized his identity as both an evangelist and as an evangelical, even as the two words have experienced their share of baggage. Even the name of his organization remains the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.

But EAPE isn't Campolo's only organization. In a post this week, Campolo says his more political group, Red Letter Christians, should stop using the e-word.

"The need for Red Letter Christians to no longer be labeled 'Evangelicals' became abundantly clear this past Saturday following the South Carolina Republican Primary," Campolo wrote, citing exit poll data that evangelicals in the state overwhelmingly voted for Newt Gingrich. "I, for one, am quite willing to join the 'forgive, forget and move on' crowd, but it does make me wonder if Evangelicals are going to sound believable when they say that they tend to vote Republican because of their religious commitments to the family."

Campolo says membership in Red Letter Christians requires traditional evangelical commitments like the authority of Scripture, the doctrines of the Apostle’s Creed, "a personal transforming relationship with the resurrected Christ." But, he says, "we want to be more non-partisan politically than appears to be the case for so many of our South Carolinian Evangelical brothers and sisters."

January 27, 2012

Marking Four Decades of Abortion Politics

CBS responds to backlash over coverage of March for Life, demonstrating contentious public opinion.

Like every year since 1974, pro-life demonstrators participated in this week’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. to protest the Supreme Court's decision. Organizers hope that the march brings focus to the issue of abortion, but they are often dismayed by event coverage. This year, pro-life activists were particularly upset with coverage by CBS, which posted a slideshow that initially only featured images of those protesting the March for Life. CBS has since changed the content so that it now includes photos of pro-life participants.

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The backlash over coverage highlights the contentiousness that surrounds abortion nearly four decades after Roe v. Wade. The country has seen significant changes in abortion politics over the past four decades, and today slightly more Americans lean in a more pro-life direction.

At the time of Roe, few Americans had given much thought to abortion as a political issue, candidates rarely mentioned it, and political parties did not consider putting an abortion plank in their platforms. It was not until 1984 that the Republican and Democratic parties took clear opposing positions on abortion. Today, however, nearly all Democratic members of Congress vote in favor of pro-choice legislation and nearly all GOP candidates are consistently pro-life on abortion. Republican and Democratic parties often use the issue as an ideological litmus test.

Continue reading Marking Four Decades of Abortion Politics...

January 26, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage Bills Coming to State Legislatures

Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington are expected to vote on bills to legalize same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is back in the national spotlight this week as Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington are expected to vote on bills to legalize same-sex marriage.

Bills in Washington in favor of same-sex marriage were backed this week by Starbucks, Microsoft, and Nike. Last year, Microsoft and Starbucks were among 70 groups who filed friend-of-the-court briefs challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which states that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.

Today, a Washington Senate committee moved the measure one step closer to passage. The 25th vote needed in Washington's Senate was confirmed by state senator Mary Margaret Haugen who made the following statement earlier this week:

I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs. It’s not always easy to do that. For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.

But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.

Those who oppose the same-sex marriage bills in Maryland and Washington will likely bring referendums to overturn laws. New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie says he will veto a bill if it reaches him. "This issue that our state is exploring — whether or not to redefine hundreds of years of societal and religious traditions — should not be decided by 121 people in the State House in Trenton," Christie said, calling for a referendum.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Republicans who control New Hampshire's legislature could possibly repeal the 2009 law legalizing gay marriage.

Maine could see a same-sex marriage proposal on the November ballot. The state's legislature previously approved gay marriage, but it was overturned by a close statewide vote in 2009.

Today, Rep. Barney Frank's office said that the retiring 71-year-old Democrat from Massachusetts will marry his longtime partner in Massachusetts.

January 21, 2012

Gingrich Wins South Carolina, Finding Support Among Evangelicals

Romney received as many evangelical votes as Santorum, the candidate backed by many social conservatives.

Newt Gingrich won the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina with the strong support of evangelicals. According to exit polls, two-thirds of voters described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians, 44 percent of which voted Gingrich. Their support turned the first Southern primary from a close race to a runaway victory for Gingrich.

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Gingrich found support from evangelicals despite efforts by evangelical leaders in the social conservative movement to rally behind Rick Santorum. Fearing that social conservatives might split their voting power, a group of 150 met last weekend in an attempt to coalesce behind a single candidate. Evangelicals in South Carolina did come together—just for a different candidate. In fact, only 21 percent of evangelicals backed Santorum, the same percentage that voted for Mitt Romney.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who served as spokesman for the Texas gathering, said on MSNBC tonight that he did not expect those in the group to switch to Gingrich. While Perkins said there was a willingness to forgive Gingrich's less-than-perfect personal life, Gingrich's character was still an issue. “There is concern over whether or not he would be that consistent and stable leader,” Perkins said.

Gingrich won, in part, because he was able to win over both religious conservatives and those for whom religion is less important in the voting booth. Voters who said the religious beliefs of candidates mattered “a great deal” backed both Gingrich (45 percent) and Santorum (32 percent).

Among those for whom religion is only matters “somewhat,” Gingrich’s support remained high but Santorum's dropped to only 15 percent. Gingrich also did well among those who said religion mattered little or not all. He received around a third of these less religiously minded voters, nearly equaling Romney's share (39 percent).

Gingrich did well throughout the state. To win, he needed Romney to do poorly in along the coast and in the more populous counties in the state. He won counties with some of the major metropolitan areas like Columbia and Charleston by narrow margins. In the more conservative highlands, Gingrich was able to easily make up the difference and seal the victory.

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January 21, 2012

Spotlight Turns to Gingrich's Marital Past Before South Carolina Primary

Historically, South Carolina is the make or break contest for the Republican Party. Since 1980, the winner of the state’s primary has become the GOP nominee. With such high stakes, candidates went all in by spending heavily on ads and letting loose any and all attacks they can use on their opponents. The result has been surprise after surprise after surprise in the final days of the contest.

Thursday morning, Rick Perry dropped out of the race, shocking seasoned political observers by endorsing Newt Gingrich. Perry was not predicted to do well in South Carolina, but he was expected to stay in the race until the results came in Saturday.

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Perry's announcement came after last weekend’s gathering of 150 evangelical leaders who met to decide on a single candidate to back in the GOP contest, choosing to back Santorum. On Thursday, James Dobson, who was a key figure in the meeting, formally endorsed Santorum. In a statement, Dobson said that his key concern was state of families and marriage.

"Of all the Republican candidates who are vying for the presidency, former Sen. Santorum is the one who has spoken passionately in every debate about this concern. He has pleaded with the nation and its leaders to come to the aid of marriages, parents, and their children. What a refreshing message,” Dobson said. "While there are other GOP candidates who are worthy of our support, Sen. Santorum is the man of the hour.”

Dobson, who endorsed as a private individual, founded Focus on the Family but now leads his new ministry Family Talk.

According to those at the social conservative confab last weekend, one of the reasons for Dobson favoring Santorum over Gingrich was the marital history of the candidates.

On Thursday, Gingrich's past was once again a news topic because ABC aired an interview with Gingrich's second wife, Marianne Gingrich. During the interview, she said that Newt asked her for an “open marriage” when he was confronted about his affair with his now-wife Callista Gingrich. Gingrich quickly denied the charge but declined to elaborate on personal matters. In the past, he has spoken in general terms about his extramarital affairs and three marriages and about how he has sought God's forgiveness.

Continue reading Spotlight Turns to Gingrich's Marital Past Before South Carolina Primary...

January 20, 2012

Conservatives Lift Up Their Eyes to the Hills for Help in South Carolina

Heading into South Carolina's primary tomorrow, social conservatives are looking to the hills for help--literally. While the entire state is considered conservative, the mountainous and piedmont regions in the northwest are strongholds for religious and social conservatives. If another candidate will beat out frontrunner Mitt Romney, he will likely need to first unite the hill country where evangelicals form the base of the GOP. But even if this region unites around a candidate, there may not be enough votes to defeat Romney.

In recent polls, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were even with around 20 percent of the vote. Another poll shows Gingrich is tied with Romney. Campaigns are spending millions of dollars in ads and both Santorum and Gingrich need a strong showing, if not a win, to continue their bids for the Republican presidential nomination. To win, one of the candidates will need to secure the northern, mountainous region known for its social conservatism.

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The northwest counties bordering North Carolina are what Patchwork Nation labels "evangelical epicenters"--counties where there is a much higher proportion of evangelicals than in other parts of the country. They are consistently Republican strongholds who back candidates with conservative views on social issues.

Furman University political science professor James Guth said that while there are regional differences but that polls are showing smaller differences this election cycle.

"With economic expansion in the Upstate and in-migration, the region no long is quite as distinctive from the Midlands and Low Country as it once was,” Guth told CT. “You have a lot more cosmopolitan business and technical types who will vote Republican, even if they don't get involved in party politics."

Continue reading Conservatives Lift Up Their Eyes to the Hills for Help in South Carolina ...

January 14, 2012

Does a Group of Evangelicals Risk Irrelevance by Backing Santorum?

A group of 150 leaders from Christian conservative organizations met in Texas this weekend. The goal was simple: coalesce around a single candidate who could defeat Mitt Romney (in the primaries) and Barack Obama (in the general election). Going into the meeting, the participants agreed that if they could decide upon a candidate, then they would all support him. After several rounds of voting, Rick Santorum won.

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Backing a single candidate could be a political gamble. Win, and they could become kingmakers. Lose, and they could risk irrelevancy.

For social conservatives, it was a bet worth taking. The Republican primary was turning into a lost opportunity. A majority of primary voters preferred a more conservative candidate to the frontrunner Romney, but social conservatives were splitting their vote among several candidates, allowing Romney to win. The gathering in Texas was a last ditch attempt to bring social conservatives together behind one candidate.

Continue reading Does a Group of Evangelicals Risk Irrelevance by Backing Santorum?...

January 13, 2012

Gingrich Creates Stir with Statements on Race

Newt Gingrich recently created a stir over statements linked to race, receiving criticism for linking food stamps specifically with the African American community. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), came to Gingrich's defense, saying the NAACP was being “a little too sensitive” about the comments. He also added his own analysis on how to get minorities “off the liberal plantation and out of the liberal barrio.”

Gingrich's comments were part of his general campaign theme of “paychecks vs. food stamps.” Since the start of his campaign, Gingrich has repeatedly called President Obama “the finest food stamp president in American history.” The moniker struck some as racist, a charge Gingrich refuted. Last Thursday, however, Gingrich said he would take his message to African Americans directly.

"Now there's no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people would you rather your children have food stamps or paychecks, you wouldn't end up with a majority saying they'd rather have a paycheck,” Gingrich said. “And so I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks, and not be satisfied with food stamps."

Continue reading Gingrich Creates Stir with Statements on Race ...

January 10, 2012

Romney, Santorum Tied for Lead Among Evangelicals in New Hampshire

Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary. His margin of victory may have been smaller than predicted, but there was one surprisingly strong result: Romney tied Rick Santorum for the lead among evangelical voters (around 26 percent each). Romney did twice as well among born-again Christians in the Granite State than he did last week in the Hawkeye State.

The primary voters in New Hampshire are, on average, more moderate than caucus goers in Iowa. New Hampshire has fewer evangelicals and more Catholics and non-religious voters than Iowa. But evangelicals are evangelicals, and Romney seems to have made significant ground among this key part of the Republican coalition.

These results could be an anomaly, but it may also signal a new dynamic to the race. The conventional wisdom was that the social conservative voters were splitting their vote. As candidates like Michele Bachmann dropped out, they would shift their support to another social conservative candidate. In the first test of this, the only difference between the evangelical vote in New Hampshire and Iowa was the vote for Romney. With Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann no-shows in New Hampshire, Romney seems to have picked up the difference in the evangelical vote.

The same pattern holds for other key parts of the GOP base. Romney won the plurality of votes among those who said they were “conservative” in politics. Among those who described themselves as “very conservative” on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, Romney and Santorum tied with 27 percent of the vote.

Ron Paul continued to get his 20 percent of the evangelical vote, as he did in Iowa. Huntsman did worse among evangelicals than those who are not (10 vs. 20 percent). Santorum did far better among born-again Christians. The former Pennsylvania senator did nearly four times as well among evangelicals than other voters (26 vs. 7 percent).

Because evangelicals made up only one-quarter of the primary voters in New Hampshire, their influence is smaller than in Iowa or in this Saturday's primary in South Carolina. Still, if Romney had done as poorly with evangelicals as he did in Iowa, his margin of victory could have slipped into the single digits. This weekend, a strong showing among evangelicals could mean the difference between a win or a loss in South Carolina.


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January 5, 2012

Social Conservatives to Gather to Decide Which Candidate to Back

Four years ago, conservative leaders worried that an upstart candidate with little financial support would split the conservative base and allow a moderate to win the Republican nomination. This year, you might see Rick Santorum as the new Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney as the new John McCain. And conservative leaders are once again facing the possibility that the nomination will go to someone whose main virtue to social conservatives is that he is not a Democrat. But conservative leaders will soon gather together to see if they can back a single candidate—something else they have tried before but failed.

Politico reports that leaders of conservative organizations will meet in Texas to decide on a single candidate to support. The meeting will include James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family), Don Wildmon (founder of American Family Association), and Gary Bauer (founder of American Values). The event will bring together members of the Arlington Group, a group that unites leaders of conservative organizations to discuss, interview, vet, and coalesce behind a single presidential candidate. In 2007, the Arlington Group decided against backing Huckabee, leaning instead toward Fred Thompson, who was seen as being able to mount a national campaign. Of course, Huckabee won the Iowa caucus, Thompson quickly dropped out, and the nomination went to McCain.

Continue reading Social Conservatives to Gather to Decide Which Candidate to Back...

January 4, 2012

Bachmann Retreats as Majority of Evangelicals Pick Santorum in Iowa

Mitt Romney edged out Rick Santorum for first place in the Iowa caucus by just eight votes yesterday. Just a few weeks ago, a strong Santorum finish was an outcome few envisioned, even among people who supported Santorum. But in the final days before the campaign, enough voters coalesced around the former Pennsylvania senator to push him near the front of the nation's first caucus.

In a crowded field, Romney nosed out Santorum with each receiving around 25 percent of the vote. If the Iowa caucus serves any purpose in the American political system, it is to winnow the field of candidates. Michele Bachmann suspended her campaign this morning.

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Going into the caucus, one of the looming questions was whether social conservatives would rally behind a single candidate. Santorum was the candidate they backed. The once long-shot candidate with more time than money invested heavily in the Iowa contest. He now moves onward with little cash on hand and little campaign organization. Still, he beat out both Rick Perry and Bachmann, both of whom once led in national polls. But in the only poll that mattered, Santorum almost received the most votes.

The entrance polls indicate that many evangelicals only recently decided who to support, according to the New York Times.

“Nearly half of the caucusgoers decided whom to support within the last few days. Mr. Santorum was the candidate who benefited the most from these late deciders - a third of them backed him,” Michael Shear reported. “About half of evangelical Christians said they made up their minds within the last few days, while a majority of voters who do not describe themselves that way decided on their vote earlier.”

Continue reading Bachmann Retreats as Majority of Evangelicals Pick Santorum in Iowa...

January 3, 2012

Iowa's Political Landscape: Who Needs to Win Where

How Iowa's political geography looks much like the rest of the country.

Iowan Republicans will gather this evening in the caucus meetings to deliberate and vote, caucuses that remain very difficult to predict. The candidates’ campaigns will be watching not only who is receiving votes but where their votes are cast. As the results pour in, the campaigns will be checking to see if counties that typically support social conservatives are breaking for candidates like Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, or Michele Bachmann.

Iowa's political geography looks mimics much of the country for the GOP. For Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the key will be to do well in the cities on the east and west sides of the state. The cities are more diverse and moderate than the more rural, conservative midland. Social conservatives, however, will be competing for the base of Christian conservatives located in the southern part of the state.

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In 2008, current GOP frontrunner Romney came in second in Iowa behind Mike Huckabee. Supported by social conservatives, Huckabee won most of the 99 counties in Iowa. In that contest, the better Huckabee polled, the worse Romney fared. There was a divide between “Romney-Republican” counties and the counties where social conservatives reside. Romney did well (though not well enough) four years ago because he won the more populous regions on the eastern and western edges of the state.

This year, Romney's campaign will once again be looking to these counties to see how well he does after campaigning yesterday in an attempt to shore up his base of support. The outcomes from Sioux City, the suburbs of Omaha (Nebraska), Dubuque, the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo will all be critical in determining how big Romney's bounce will be.

Continue reading Iowa's Political Landscape: Who Needs to Win Where...