A top official of the politically potent Southern Baptist Commission says if Rudy Giuliani wins the GOP nomination he will not vote for him.
Dr. Richard Land, the influential president of the ethics and religious liberty commission of the Southern Baptist convention. And the author a new book entitled "The Divided States of America," told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "as a matter of personal moral conscience, I can't vote for a pro-choice candidate." Giuliani has refused to disavow his support for the so-called woman's right to choose.
Appearing on Thursday Night's "Situation Room" Dr. Land was responding to Blitzer's question that "If Giuliani who's the front- runner in at least a lot of these national polls, if he were to get the Republican nomination, a man who supports abortion rights for women, gay rights, would you be able to vote for him?"
After replying in the negative, he added that he did not know how many of his fellow evangelicals would vote for the former New York City mayor, but said it would depend on Giuliani. "I mean there are some things he can do to mitigate the damage. I saw a poll just today that said if there was a third party candidate in the race between Giuliani and Hillary, that they would get 14 percent. It would drop Rudy's vote right now from 43 percent to 34 percent."
He agreed with Blitzer that this would gaurantee a victory for Hillary Clinton if she were the Democratic nominee.
Asked by Blitzer what in his perspective would be better, "Hillary Clinton as president or Rudy Giuliani as president?" Dr. Land said "Well, I refuse to answer that question on the grounds I might tend to incriminate myself. I don't endorse candidates. I'm just saying it is a matter of personal moral conscience, I can't vote for a pro-choice candidate. But Giuliani could do some things that would mitigate the damage and would encourage more evangelicals to sort of vote for him as the lesser of two evils.
Noting that 40 percent of Bush's raw total vote in 2004 against John Kerry were considered to be evangelical voters, Dr. Land hinted he would support a third party if Giuliani, for example were to get the nomination.
"Well, I don't get involved in supporting parties. But it would be nice to have someone to vote for the first Tuesday in November and as a matter of moral conscience, I can't vote for a pro- choice candidate. Just as a matter of moral conscience, I can't do it."
When Blitzer asked if Mitt Romney, who used to support abortion rights for women and now says he no longer does would be acceptable to him Land said "I'm not going to say who I would vote for. I have said who I wouldn't for. But I take his conversion on the pro- life issue at face value. I have too many family members and too many friends who used to be pro-choice who have become pro-life. I don't think the charge of being a flip-flopper is going to stick. I think that he is considered by most evangelicals to be a pro-life candidate who would adopt pro-life policies in his administration."
In response to Blitzer's question if he could vote for a Mormon, Dr. Land said "Under the right circumstances, I've encouraged Governor Romney when he was governor. I said look, you need to give a JFK-type speech. I believe that Jack Kennedy was the only person who could convince tens of millions of Protestants to vote for a Catholic in 1960. Only Mitt Romney can convince millions of evangelicals that it's OK to vote for a Mormon."
He added that he would not want Romney to defend Mormanism. "President Kennedy didn't defend Catholicism. What he did was defend the right of a Catholic to run for president. If I was advising Romney, I would say give a speech in an evangelical venue the way Kennedy did at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in Houston, and I would say look, I'm not the Mormon candidate for president. I'm the Republican candidate for president. And I'm going to be guided by my moral conscience. I have a right to have this faith and run for president. That's the American way. We don't have a religious test for office. Judge me on my administration in Massachusetts. Judge me on my record. And don't judge me because of my faith. And here's how my faith would and would not impact my performance of my office. I think if he did that, he could convince a lot of people who have reservations to vote for him because after all, you know, we are voting for our commander in chief, not pastor in chief."
When asked who among the other candidates he liked Land said he had no problem with John McCain or Fred Thompson but added "I know Mike Huckabee. I think he would make a fine president.
"You know the issue, of course, is that we have a pro-life plank in the platform of the Republican Party and most of my constituency, they have been voting in the last few presidential elections for the Republican candidate and not because he's the Republican candidate. But because he's the pro-life candidate."
If the Republicans "take that off the table," he warned "then it scrambles everything."
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