Top conservative activist and leader of the Eagle Forum, Phyllis Schlafly — a legendary militant pro-lifer — reacted to John McCain's remark that former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge's pro-choice position would not rule him out as a vice presidential running mate by telling Newsmax, "I think [McCain] would be making a mistake."
Schlafly was not alone in warning McCain against picking Ridge or any other pro-choice advocate as his running mate. Other top conservative leaders chimed in, showing that McCain, already getting only grudging support from the GOP’s right wing, might drive conservatives to desert his cause and torpedo his chances of winning in November.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said, “I think McCain has to have a running mate that clearly connects with social conservatives in the party. That is where he is lacking. So if he picks a pro-choice running mate, I don't see how he can win this race."
When asked if social and religious conservatives would walk away from Sen. McCain if he chooses Ridge or some other pro-choice running mate, Perkins explained, "I'm not going to say people will stay home, but there is a core of voters whose level of enthusiasm influences people further from the core. So if McCain picks a pro-choice running mate, the strength of turnout on election day is not going to be there for him."
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told LancasterOnline.com that McCain cannot anger conservatives, as choosing a pro-choice running mate would do.
“Obama’s got to lose,” Santorum said. “It doesn’t matter. I’m a believer that John McCain can’t win the race, but that Obama has to lose it. This is not a knock on McCain. I don’t know of any Republican candidate who can overcome the Democrats in this environment without the Democrat disqualifying himself.
“But McCain has to remain an acceptable alternative if voters do disqualify Obama,: Santorum continued. "So his VP choice has to be safe — somebody who can’t disqualify McCain. At the same time, he can’t tick off conservatives. The answer — long story short — he’s got to pick a safe, conservative Republican. There are probably ten members of the U.S. Senate, and some governors, who are conservative, who have solid records, who are good people, who would not stir controversy.”
Catholics would be turned off by a pro-choice McCain running mate, as well.
“Surely McCain and his advisors know that the choice of Ridge or any other pro-abortion politician would cost him the election," writes the influential InsideCatholic.com.
"The religious and social conservative base of the GOP would be completely dispirited; they would vote for McCain, but that's about it."
Santorum says a pro-life VP pick is the safe choice, and Michele Malkin, a conservative syndicated columnist, author, and blogger, considers McCain's floating of the pro-choice running mate selection a "trial balloon," to which religious conservatives should respond with appropriate vehemence.
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