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Jacques Berlinerblau Jacques Berlinerblau is an Associate Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the School of Foreign Service. Berlinerblau has published on a wide variety of issues ranging...

A collaboration with Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive's On Faith site, The God Vote explores the role of faith in this year's election. It is featured here as well as on Georgetown/On Faith.

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The Biggest (Republican) Losers

December 18, 2007

I know many registered Democrats who are exemplary, civic-minded Americans. They do not view national elections as mere contests, games in which their “team” must emerge victorious at any cost. No! For them, the electoral process is about gaining acquaintance with the two most qualified candidates for the presidency. Their sincerest hope is that the GOP selects the best person for the job. This assures that the issues which most concern our citizens will receive their most serious hearing. The question I am about to pose is not for this type of Democrat: Which of the current front-runners do you want to win the GOP’s presidential nomination, if only because he will be trounced by either Hillary or Barack or John? Put differently, who do you want the Republicans to designate as a winner, knowing full well that he will be a loser come Election Day? As always, when it comes to ethically dubious endeavors, I am here to help. What follows is a brief analysis of the most glaring Faith and Values liabilities of the leading Republican contenders (A Democratic version of this exercise will follow shortly):

Mike Huckabee: The single biggest negative confronting Mike Huckabee in a general election might be described as Inordinate Degree of Affiliation with the Christian Right. In a previous post, I have noted that many voters, be they Democrats, independents, or unaffiliateds, will come out in droves on Nov. 4, 2008, in hopes of re-secularizing the public sphere. On this score Huckabee, who anointed himself a “Christian Leader,” is extremely vulnerable to mobilized coalitions of nonbelievers and Church/State separatists.

What is fascinating is that “Brother Mike,” as he was once called, does not always conform to the secular stereotype of a conservative White Evangelical. His views on immigration, taxes, race relations, big business and even biblical hermeneutics strike many Red-Staters as far too liberal. In short, he is fully capable of appealing to non-Republicans.

Unfortunately, this is an appeal that an Opposition Research department can undermine within the time it takes to air one episode of "The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast." If Huckabee wins his party’s nomination, he will attempt to show mainstream America that he is no religious fanatic. He isn’t. But that claim will be difficult to defend after Democratic operatives ransack thousands of hours of religious radio and television broadcasts from a pastoral career that Huckabee has left behind. When all the attack ads are said and done, the former governor’s remarks about quarantining AIDS patients will look like the Sermon on the Mount.

Mitt Romney: There is no reason to believe that conservative Evangelicals are the only ones who harbor anti-Mormon prejudices. In a general election, Romney will be battling deep-seated, anti LDS-church biases that are pervasive in the United States.

Like Huckabee, he will also be hampered by the claim that he is a pawn of the Christian Right. But unlike Huckabee (who will need some pointers on how to sound and look more ecumenical) Romney has earned himself some wiggle room. He has already established himself as a friend of all religions (and an enemy of nonbelievers). Better yet, the one-time governor of Massachusetts is virtually unsullied by any sort of personal scandals or irregularities. Which brings us to. . . . .

Rudy Giuliani: As for scandals and irregularities, let’s just say that America’s Mayor has got a few. Then again, unlike the two candidates mentioned earlier, Giuliani has not bent over backwards to court conservative Christians. If he somehow emerges victorious as a result of Huckabee and Romney’s mutual annihilation pact, he may be able to siphon off some secular voters. Of course, his Democratic foe will be sure to call attention to character issues. Worst yet, he may be hit with a slew of “communion-denial stories” which might cut into his Catholic base.

Neither John McCain, nor Fred Thompson are too closely associated with that Conservative Christian worldview which secularists will do anything to keep out of office. (Indeed, prior to his recent “Christian nation” banter , McCain was widely seen as the one GOP candidate who had stood up to the Evangelical and Fundamentalist demagogues). Nor are the two currently plagued by character issues.

So, to the handful of unscrupulous Democrats out there, I would venture that Mike Huckabee is your man, followed by Romney and Giuliani in a dead heat. As far as Faith and Values liabilities go, he presently gives the Democrats the best chance to win.