God on the campaign trail

Conservative Christian leaders are splitting apart as they hunt for the Republican candidate most likely to win the presidency, said Sam Brownback in The Washington Post, but the GOP will lose unless it focuses on a "pro-life" message grounded i

What happened

Conservative religious leaders are splitting up and backing different candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. A flurry of endorsements over the last week gave no candidate a clear edge with Christian conservatives, but boosted GOP leaders’ hopes that influential evangelicals won’t abandon the party and back a third-party candidate if the nominee fails the “values” test.

What the commentators said

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The Republican Party needs to get right with its base, said former presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback, who endorsed Sen. John McCain, in The Washington Post (free registration). The GOP is veering away from talk of faith and focusing on “electability,” but Republicans “lose” when they get “bogged down” in politics. The party wins when it remains true to a “pro-life” message that respects “human dignity,” and recognizes that “every person, at every stage and in every place, is a beautiful and unique child of God.”

“Religion on the right” doesn’t mean what it used to, said Kathleen Parker in The Orlando Sentinel. That became clear last week when Pat Robertson—founder of the Christian Coalition and the man who “blames natural disasters on abortion”—endorsed the “thrice-married, pro-abortion” Rudy Giuliani. But right now nothing puts “terror in evangelical hearts” like the though of Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office, so “that ol’ time religion” has adopted the goal of “beating Hillary” as its biggest virtue.

“As the religious right scrambles to cohere,” said Lisa Miller in Newswweek, “perhaps this is a good moment to remember that authentic belief in God is a personal matter.” Americans cut themselves a lot of slack in this department—just 40 percent of us go to church every week. So why do 70 percent of Americans demand a president with strong religious faith? “If half of Americans can't find God in church, maybe the president doesn't have to, either.”

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