GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is virtually “indistinguishable” from Hillary Clinton on core social issues, according to Tony Perkins, head of the influential conservative Family Research Council.
Speaking with NewsMax in a media conference call on Wednesday, Perkins said that the former New York City mayor simply cannot bring together the “three key elements” of the Republican Party — social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, and a strong national defense.
“I don’t envision the majority of social conservatives moving toward a pro-abortion candidate,” Perkins said. “This issue runs strong. Singing the ABC song — 'anybody but Clinton' — will not be enough.”
Perkins’ group is a co-sponsor of Washington Briefing 2007: Values Voter Summit, a gathering later this month of pro-family activists in the nation’s capital, at which at least eight of the Republican presidential candidates, including Giuliani, will appear.
“What I hear is people are frustrated because there is very little difference between the Republican and Democratic parties,” he said. “My experience is you don’t beat a liberal with a moderate. You have a lack of enthusiasm. People will not get excited by Giuliani.”
Perkins sees former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the strongest candidate on social issues.
“He has made these issues more front and center than the other social conservative candidates have. He has staked out his ground on these issues.”
Perkins doesn’t believe Romney’s Mormon faith will be a concern.
“(Romney) benefits best by staying focused on the issues,” he said. “Further down the path, when people are comfortable with his positions, I think he can have a dialogue on his faith.”
Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson gives Perkins’ group pause because of his stand on gay marriage. Thompson has said the issue should be dealt with on the state level, not with a federal constitutional amendment.
“His position does not satisfy us. It would not prevent judges from redefining marriage or stop one state from forcing it on another state,” Perkins said. “This does not remove him from consideration. He’s been clear on his support for marriage, but he has not come around to a full solution to the problem.”
Perkins downplayed reports that the religious right may seek an alternate candidate outside the Republican Party — reports spurred by statements at a meeting of evangelical leaders earlier this fall.
“I was at that meeting and I think it’s been misconstrued a little bit,” he said. “It was not a declaration to create a third party. It was a proclamation that there is a line we would not cross, and that line is life.
“What came out of that meeting is that support has not solidified around any of these candidates. If the party advances a candidate that is pro-abortion, we couldn’t be there, but we don’t think it’s going to come to that.”
Perkins said Giuliani will be warmly received at this month’s “values voters” gathering.
“He will be treated very cordially. This is not a debate format. He will be given his 20 minutes, just as the other candidates, to make his pitch.
“When I ran for public office, I spoke at every group that extended an invitation,” he said. “It’s always beneficial to talk to people you’re opposed to and going in you know you’re not going to change their minds. It brings civility to the process.”
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