Jan. 18, 2008
Yesterday in the Washington Update I wrote about the fact that Republican voters, including evangelicals, are distributing their votes among three leading candidates Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and John McCain handing them victories at the ballot box in the hope that one or more of the GOP candidates will fully embrace all three parts of the conservative coalition social, economic, and defense.
On the eve of the voting in South Carolina, the race may be wide open, but the base is not wide open about its agenda for unity. Not everyone is sounding this theme. Yesterday the economic conservative Club for Growth assembled a team led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey that crisscrossed the Palmetto State attacking Mick Huckabee as, in Armeys words, a misguided populist.
The candidates themselves seem to be trying harder to generate unity. Huckabee used a speech in Tigerville, South Carolina, to emphasize his nine-point immigration plan that one anti-illegal immigration group hailed as the strongest no-amnesty, attrition plan of any of the candidates.
McCain took the opportunity to personally address the sanctity of life in Greenville, South Carolina, saying, "Im proud of my pro-life record in 24 years in the United States Congress . . . and I believe that some of the most sacred words ever uttered were that all of us were created equal ... and that applies to the unborn as well as the born. He also said that the best way to protect the family and the unborn is "to appoint judges who strictly interpret the Constitution, and that he would "nominate the closest thing to a clone of (Chief) Justice John Roberts as I can find."
Romney for his part has actually carried a three-legged stool with him to campaign stops for months, citing the need for family values to be an integral component of a conservative message. He is dividing time between South Carolina and Nevada, which holds caucuses of its own this Saturday.
Finally, Fred Thompson, for whom South Carolina may prove to be a breakwater or a backbreaker, hit all the coalition themes, denouncing budget excess, saying, "We're spending ourselves into oblivion, asserting his dedication to the sanctity of human life, and even plastering unity on his campaign posters.
To a remarkable degree, the messages of these four candidates are now converging.