This weekend The Wall Street Journaloffered Richard Land's analysis of the Republican primary field. The president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission delivered a grim prognosis. He thinks Giuliani's two divorces and pro-choice views will doom him. He doesn't fully trust McCain. He really doesn't trust Gingrich. He could vote for Romney, should the Mormon former governor clarify how religion would affect his decision-making. And Thompson has some promise.
I think the last couple hundred words of the interview pose some serious questions evangelical Republicans must answer.
Land argues that evangelicals will decline to vote for a Republican with liberal social views, even if the Democrats nominate Sen. Hillary Clinton. Many will stay home out of principle, Land says. He warns that such an outcome would doom the Republican Party all the way down the ballot.
The Journal's Naomi Schaefer Riley doesn't seem so sure. What if the Iraq War remains the dominant political issue in 2008? If evangelical supporters of the war stick to their guns, they would have a stark choice between Giuliani and Clinton or for that matter, any Democratic candidate. The Democrats want out; Giuliani supports President Bush. So what happens in this scenario? Would evangelicals who support the war tolerate any candidate who promised not to immediately withdraw the troops? Or would abortion trump guns?
Here's another question: Would evangelical support for Giuliani on the basis of war signal a "maturing" of our political engagement and broadened concerns? Or would we betray the social problems that triggered our recent involvement in the first place?