'Values Voters' Distressed Over Lack of Standard-Bearer Among Republicans

Sunday, 17 Aug 2014 02:39 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Evangelicals and social conservatives, known as "values voters," are becoming increasingly disappointed that there seems to be no real standard-bearers in the Republican Party who reflect their religious interests and beliefs.

With marijuana legal in Colorado and Washington, and gay marriage becoming more increasingly accepted by members of both parties, strict conservatives feel the country is taking a left turn that makes them uncomfortable, reports The Washington Post.

And even tea party activists and libertarians who are gaining power in the party would rather put their focus on taxes and government interference, some social conservatives complain, before issues like drugs, gay rights, or abortion.

Gary Bauer, who sought the GOP nomination in 2000 and now heads the Campaign for Working Families, says the separation is a "chasm."

The Republicans' two most recent nominees, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, eventually lost to President Barack Obama because they did not appeal to "values voters," said Bauer.

Such voters "have been treated as the stepchildren of the family, while the party has wanted to get on with so-called more electorally popular ideas," Bauer said. "The Republican base will not tolerate another candidate foisted upon us as a guy who can win."

And in states like Iowa, where social conservatives are a major part of the voting population, candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who are not considered to be closely connected with values-based voters, could find themselves in trouble, The Post says.

Both are courting values voters, however. Christie in June delivered his first major address to an evangelical conference at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's annual meeting.

Paul was also on the agenda, along with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee.

Social conservatives do, however, find themselves siding with potential candidates such as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson or former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, which could pull the race more to the right in Iowa, says The Post.

Last fall, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the presidential straw poll at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, taking 42 percent of the vote, ahead of Santorum and Carson, who netted 13 percent each.

Paul and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio received 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

This list of speakers already confirmed for this year's Values Voters Summit, set for Sept. 26-28 in Washington D.C., sounds much like a who's who of many of the potential GOP presidential candidates who have been under discussion this year.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Cruz, Carson, Paul, Perry, Rubio, and Santorum have already been confirmed as speakers. Christie, however, is not among the list of more than nearly 50 conservative speakers planning to take the stage, nor is another often-discussed potential nominee, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Social conservatives' dissatisfaction with Republicans' stances on moral issues began around 10 years ago, The Post reports, after such conservatives mobilized for former President George W. Bush. However, many did not believe Bush emphasized social concerns after his reelection.

Meanwhile, there are now several potential candidates aiming their campaigns at values voters, who make up some 40 percent of the Republican bloc, The Post reports.

Huckabee, a Baptist minister, is courting the voters, as are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Paul.

Huckabee, after telling a private gathering in Cedar Rapids that some Republicans will not discuss moral issues, said the GOP should not take values voters for granted, "as we’ve seen in the past two elections, if the candidates don’t connect with the values voters, [the voters] will simply stay home," The Post reports.

Values voters are also making their impact felt on the state election level. In the June 22 Georgia primary, for example, former state senator Barry Loudermilk swept up a 2-1 vote over Rep. Bob Barr after attracting values voters by supporting traditional marriage and anti-abortion legislation.

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