« Joe Klein and the Extremists | Main | Get Your War Constitutional Law On »

March 03, 2007

In Which I Declare Sam Brownback the GOP Nominee

by Stephen of the Thinkery (sorry, forgot this in the original post)

Gallup just released a poll about Americans' opinions of Mormonism.  The results are not surprising, with 46% of the total sample reporting an unfavorable opinion compared to 42% with a favorable opinion.  In terms of geographical distribution of opinion, the East had the highest unfavorables (49%), followed by the West (47%), south (46%) and then Midwest (43%).  The West was the only part of the country to have a higher favorable rating (50%) than unfavorable; it was also the area with the lowest number of neutral respondents, which should be expected.

A higher percentage of Republicans view Mormonism unfavorably than those religion-hating Democrats, yet another empirical example of the lack of anti-religious bias in the Democratic party that will be ignored.  However, when broken down for "ideology," self-identified liberals showed a 61% unfavorable rating.  However, it's unlikely that this is due to a knee-jerk reaction to religion, but to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints conservative politics regarding abortion and homosexuality.

More regular church attendance translates into a more negative view of Mormons, with 55% of weekly attendees responding negatively compared to 39% of those who never or rarely attend.

None of this, as I noted, should be particularly surprising.  Better bloggers than I have been pointing out that the Religious Right does not necessarily require its political leaders to live in a particular manner so long as their rhetoric, and to a much smaller extent their actual policies, reflect support for the RR's cherished political footballs.  They have even been willing to forgive a certain amount of flip-flopping in past elections, though the tapdancing Mitt Romney has been doing lately is very likely to ensure his complete defeat before the primary "season" officially begins.

But if Romney could show that he's always been a gay-hatin' abortion fighter, he would still have a tough uphill battle for the GOP nomination; indeed, his Mormonism would appear to be far less important to Democrats.  This poll underscores that for the Religious Right in this country, as Atrios and others have pointed out before, what matters is actually not that one believes in something, but that one believes in the right thing.

At this moment religious conservatives have every reason to be unhappy with the GOP frontrunners.  What I find surprising is how the progressive blogosphere is writing off Sam Brownback as a candidate, while continuing to believe that Mike Huckabee will be the dark horse that emerges next spring to sweep the field.  Huckabee has some problems in Arkansas over gifts he received while in office, and the fact that the governorship went to a Democrat upon his leaving doesn't look good for him.  But Brownback is the best option that the Religious Right has, a socially conservative Catholic, currently in office and currently with some pretty good approval ratings.  He can be trusted by the Religious Right and belongs to the religious constituency they seem to be courting the most right now - after all, they certainly aren't targeting the Mormons.

Progressives need to remember that they aren't religious conservatives and therefore will always have a hard time understanding what makes them tick.  I would argue that someone as non-religious as McCain or Guiliani had a much better chance of garnering their support before George W. Bush came along.  Since the Religious Right continues to believe that George Bush is an Evangelical Christian like them, they've simply become spoiled, and are less likely to offer their traditional level of support to someone who doesn't closely match their personal religious beliefs as well as their political rhetoric.

Without the presidency of George W. Bush, Brownback wouldn't have a chance.  But an Evangelical Christian (well, I guess) has held the White House for close to two terms now.  So let me be the first, apparently, to predict Sam Brownback as the GOP nominee in 2008.  Then he'll pick some less religious Republican as his running mate - perhaps even Chuck Hagel in an attempt to court the "maverick" voters McCain will lose when he suffers his nervous breakdown.

March 3, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Brownback may not be anti-immigrant enough.

Posted by: Antid Oto | Mar 3, 2007 12:29:53 PM

"So let me be the first, apparently, to predict Sam Brownback as the GOP nominee in 2008."

I own some Brownback contracts at InTrade, so I'm well acquainted with your basic reasoning.

But everyone on both sides of the aisle is drastically underselling McCain at the moment. The nomination is still his to lose.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 3, 2007 12:31:01 PM

But everyone on both sides of the aisle is drastically underselling McCain at the moment. The nomination is still his to lose.

Well, since my prediction of a Brownback nomination is predicated upon John McCain having a nervous breakdown, I'd say you're right (but let's not tell anyone of this).

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 3, 2007 1:02:32 PM

A 1000-1 odds that Brownback wins the nomination. At least. Richardson has a better chance on the democratic side (which isn't high).

I'm with you on McCain, Petey. Though you still haven't explained why you think supporting the Iraq War will be a good thing in the general election!

Posted by: Korha | Mar 3, 2007 1:19:42 PM

Romney's dad was a popular governor of Michigan. I didn't support him or agree with his policies, but, George Romney was a straight-shooter. George's run for the presidency failed because he couldn't lie. Mitt's will fail because he can't tell the truth.

Posted by: MarvyT | Mar 3, 2007 1:29:34 PM

"More regular church attendance translates into a more negative view of Mormons, with 55% of weekly attendees responding negatively compared to 39% of those who never or rarely attend."

There is also the issue of the 19th century organized massacre of a group of Irish settlers at the hands of the Mormons, who were leaving the (I think third) state they were kicked out of. My view of Mormonism (as a religion) is colored very heavily by that, even if it does not interfere with my relationships with Mormons (the people).

Posted by: Fnor | Mar 3, 2007 2:16:29 PM

"Though you still haven't explained why you think supporting the Iraq War will be a good thing in the general election!"

My thinking is bit more nuanced than that. I think Iraq will be likely be a net plus specifically for either McCain or Giuliani if they are the nominee.

There are numerous reasons why, including that the swing electorate blames Bush personally for losing the war rather than hawkish foreign policy in general, and that McCain and Giuliani will both be trying to sell foreign policy "leadership" which the ongoing quagmire will make attractive.

There are obviously a lot of different variables in play, but the short takeaway is that I think those who are counting on the unpopularity of the war to cleanly transfer to McCain or Giuliani are misreading the tea leaves.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 3, 2007 2:33:13 PM

The problem with Brownback for Evangelicals is that he opposed the "surge."

Posted by: Katherine | Mar 3, 2007 5:06:57 PM

There are numerous reasons why, including that the swing electorate blames Bush personally for losing the war rather than hawkish foreign policy in general, and that McCain and Giuliani will both be trying to sell foreign policy "leadership" which the ongoing quagmire will make attractive.

I would respectively disagree with your analysis here. While past elections have often favored the Republicans in terms of "hawkish foreign policy" I think that was mainly because while they talked a mean game, in the end they followed a relatively centrist course in terms of using international agencies and negotiating with adversaries. Even the lodestar of conservative worship Reagan ended up at the bargaining table with Gorbachev. These days the sort of cowboy foreign policy followed by Bush has put a negative shine on this sort of thing and it will be difficult for a Republican nominee to make rash declarations ("I will never negotiate with Iran" or "We will stay in Iraq until the job is done") without being called on it.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano | Mar 3, 2007 5:17:59 PM

I, too, keep thinking "don't write McCain off" and "it's still his nomination to lose." But I'm starting to wonder. Perhaps his age is becoming a factor. The swoon his campaign seems to be undergoing -- mostly at the hands of Giuliani -- might not be such a back breaker were McCain still, say, in his early 60s. He's now past 70, though. I don't know if voters will allow a 72-year old to have a comeback.

It kinda sorta reminds me of Reagan a bit. I'm old enough to have a recollection of the 1980 campaign. Prior to New Hampshire, there was a lot of thinking that Reagan's time was past (and that he was too extreme, too conservative, too unelectable, etc., etc). Then he came roaring back in New Hamphsire. Thing is, though, Reagan was enormously popular among rank and file Republicans. John McCain isn't. Moreover, Regan's calling cards -- his advocacy for a stronger national defense and reform of the economy -- addressed the two biggest concerns of most Republican primary voters. McCain is mostly known for hawkery. My sense is that even among Republicans, the war in Iraq is not popular.

Unless something significant happens to change the political dynamic soon, I don't see how John McCain salvages his candidacy.

Posted by: Jasper | Mar 3, 2007 6:29:26 PM

I called a Brownback - Edwards presidential race in January.

Posted by: quiddity | Mar 3, 2007 6:34:03 PM

I wouldn't say that the progressive blogosphere has so much written off a Brownback candidacy, as it doesn't fear a Brownback candidacy. Brownback is a proud Talib, and won't appear any other way to the voters. That means he can't top 42% of the popular vote, if he does everything right. Talibs give ordinary voters the creeps. If Brownback gets the nomination, we can start to hope for a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

On the other hand, although Huckabee is also a Talib, he does not come across that way. He will not frighten ordinary voters. If he gets the nomination he has a chance at winning the general election--maybe a better chance than any of the big three. After all, unlike Giuliani and McCain, he has distanced himself from Iraq. I fear Huckabee.

Posted by: Joe S. | Mar 3, 2007 7:32:06 PM

Next to Newt, a Brownback nom would be my wet dream.

Posted by: akaison | Mar 3, 2007 9:00:37 PM

A higher percentage of Republicans view Mormonism unfavorably than those religion-hating Democrats, yet another empirical example of the lack of anti-religious bias in the Democratic party that will be ignored.

I won't ignore it! I think the poll numbers are consistent with my view of how religious prejudice differs on the Right and Left. On the Right, there is prejudice both for theological reasons and political reasons, and some qualify on both counts (Muslims, Unitarians, maybe Episcopalians). On the Left, there is a more generalized prejudice against religion among some, even by some who are believers, and the more particular prejudice against conservative religion.

The numbers sorted by ideology are interesting. For self-identified conservations it's a virtual tie, with 45% unfavorable, 44% favorable. I think that's the sectarian being offset by the political. For liberals, the 61% unfavorable goes with only 28% favorable, suggesting to me the combination of general religious prejudice and anti-conservative religious prejudice. Moderates actually break favorably for Mormons, 48% to 40%.

But I'm not sure this sinks Romney in the primaries. He's closer than either McCain or Giuliani to the conservatives religious folk, even if they don't know that yet. Brownback has an advantage there, to be sure, but I doubt it will be enough to get him near the top. He could rise on other grounds too, I suppose. It is hard to see how it will go.

There is also the issue of the 19th century organized massacre of a group of Irish settlers at the hands of the Mormons, who were leaving the (I think third) state they were kicked out of. My view of Mormonism (as a religion) is colored very heavily by that, even if it does not interfere with my relationships with Mormons (the people).

Why, Fnor? Very few Mormons were involved in that massacre, the Church has completely renounced it and expressed regret for it's association with it (which is cloudy), and you'd have a hard time finding any Mormon that is anything but thoroughly ashamed of it. It's not like it was the Crusades, but even if it had been, that was a long time ago. (Your facts are a little off, by the way, but close enough.)

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 3, 2007 9:43:09 PM

Because the Crusades, as wrong-headed as they were, were wars. They were wrong-headed and stupid wars, but they were wars against countries, or groups of countries. Additionally, they were the dark ages. That does not excuse anything, but the majority of religion had at that point (thankfully) moved on from that sort of thing. This was a group of people who were persecuted and driven out of where they wanted to be, and then decided to round up and kill another group of people who were persecuted and driven out of where they wanted to be.

As I said, I have no problems with Mormons. I do have problems with a modern religion with modern roots stamping (which it did at the time) the idea that a proper response to being kicked around is to round a bunch of people up and shoot them. I say problems, not hatred or anything. As you said, the church has renounced it and everything, and that is great. So just problems, exacerbated by very different beliefs. Enough to make me hesitant to vote for a Mormon, which is what this discussion was about.

Posted by: Fnor | Mar 4, 2007 1:00:03 AM

Fnor your problems are understandable but Americans in general aren't that good at remembering history; old massacres don't grab them as much as new scandals.

What will be interesting is how much the authoritarian/obedience training kicks in whenever a new Repub candidate is picked. Will the rightwing preachers tell their flocks they must vote for Brownback/whoever just to keep the Democrats out? Or will their partisan ways take over? Will they try to run Pat Robertson again, or some other homegrown fundie type, to give them a "moral" vote choice?

It is hard to be a sincere religious fundamentalist AND agree to vote for a guy who only sort of shares your views. Religious right leaders are good at saying one thing and doing another, but they risk new leaders rising up and taking the opportunity to call them on it and take away their followers in search of more moral purity. Fundies have been involved in govt so far because they had some easy victories; but without a strong, fundie Christian candidate, their natural distaste for participating in government and culture (with all the struggles and compromises that entails) may kick in again.

Posted by: emjaybee | Mar 4, 2007 10:28:11 AM

These days the sort of cowboy foreign policy followed by Bush has put a negative shine on this sort of thing and it will be difficult for a Republican nominee to make rash declarations ("I will never negotiate with Iran" or "We will stay in Iraq until the job is done") without being called on it.

Yeah, the media are currently hammering McCain brutally on his vigorous support for the surge, an indefinite Iraq occupation, and "getting tough" with Iran. All he'll have to do is make vague statements about "smart foreign policy" and "restore America's greatness," and Chris Matthews will continue to fellate him with gusto.

On the other hand, although Huckabee is also a Talib, he does not come across that way. He will not frighten ordinary voters.

Indeed, he's the best sort of American fundamentalist politician, the sort who can be publicly dishonest about what he believes. Senator Brownback, love him or hate him, is likelier to speak his mind directly. And don't underestimate the advantage a Southern Baptist minister would have over someone who converted to Catholicism. It's nowhere near the level of feelings about the LDS, but many conservative Protestant denominations still look askance at the Papists. And as far as this goes:

Huckabee has some problems in Arkansas over gifts he received while in office,

No one will hear about that in the run-up to the general election, because (1) it actually happened, and (2) Huckabee is not a Democrat. See also Wayne Dumond.

Posted by: mds | Mar 4, 2007 10:56:16 AM

Brownback and Huccabee are no threat, they have no buzz, nothing to grab the center.

Now Chuck Hagel, he scares me. You got your war-critic veteran thing going, down the line conservatism everywhere else. He can talk, he can think, and in his quiet way has a depth and charisma that Brownback and Huccabee can't begin to match. He just doesn't seem to want it.

Gore vs Hagel. THAT would be a 'Choice not an echo'.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Mar 4, 2007 2:38:05 PM

Brownback and Huccabee are no threat, they have no buzz, nothing to grab the center.

How many of us, I wonder, are always aware that it is March of 2007 and not March of 2008?

It's still close to 12 months before the 1st primary is even held. Anyway, the base of the GOP, if by that we mean the Religious Right, is excited by one of their own, someone who really speaks their language.

You are right, though, to consider Chuck Hagel a credible candidate. The main danger for Democrats is the number of people in our own party who consider Hagel a real maverick. I looked at him before, and Hagel is a by-the-book conservative Republican in every way. What he has going for him is a recent bit of strong talk about Iraq, but even then it's clear that he isn't trying to separate himself from Bush. In terms of the GOP, he can satisfy the Religious Right, those becoming disenchanted with the Iraq War and those who still fully support Bush over Iraq.

If Hagel runs, I take back my Brownback prediction, and will entertain ideas as to when John McCain's head explodes.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 4, 2007 8:40:01 PM

Brownback is an Open Border hardline ideologue and a Jesus Freak.

JesusFreaks aka Evangelicals will not vote for Open Border idiot, there is a choice of smart Open Borders among Repubs front runners (Gulliani and McCain).

Repubs who are not JesusFreaks unlikely to pick a JesusFreak idiot without name recognition.

Brownback will drop before or after first primary.

Posted by: mik | Mar 4, 2007 8:51:32 PM

mik,

Among the "Jesus Freaks" - a word that actually has a fairly honorable 1970's heritage - changing one's tune about immigration will be easier to swallow than changing it about abortion or homosexuality. Anyone who thinks that immigration is really the engine that runs the Religious Right is fairly ignorant about the Religious Right. Communism in the 1980's wasn't the bugaboo to them that abortion was.

The non-Jesus Freaks, by which I assume you mean the business interests of the GOP, understand that their interests will be served no matter who the GOP politician is, because that's what happens every single time. At any rate, the business interests have a large purse, but the Jesusy folk have the votes.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 4, 2007 10:00:57 PM

@Steven

And at least communism had godlessness.

Posted by: crack | Mar 5, 2007 10:05:52 AM

"Anyone who thinks that immigration is really the engine that runs the Religious Right is fairly ignorant about the Religious Right."

I don't think Relig Right runs on immigration. But, as for 70% of Americans, immigration is a second or third issue for them.

Lefty caricature of RR notwithstanding, they are not going to waste their vote on that idiot.

Posted by: mik | Mar 5, 2007 2:58:15 PM

Lefty caricature of RR notwithstanding, they are not going to waste their vote on that idiot.

I'm rather confident in my knowledge of what the Religious Right actually is. It's Lefty ignorance of the movement that fails to take candidates like Brownback seriously in light of the gains they feel they made with George W. Bush.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 5, 2007 11:14:38 PM

vieste residence argeste http://foto-lesbica.dclari.info http://vimar.prodortu.info very young pussy fiorello http://maglietta-e-gadget-personalizzati.scanti.info http://malossi-it.dementif.info http://north-dallas-apartment.decomman.info mare residence http://richiesta-finanziamento-online.dclari.info statistica web http://stampante-hp-multifunzione.desonn.info http://dementif.info/news_400.html agriturismo piemonte http://promozione-sito.dclari.info montacarichi http://santa-sede-news-foto.carcevi.info http://sviluppo-software-gestione-produzioni.decomman.info http://lavatrici-bosch-alto.jablesce.info ciclette camera

Posted by: mynameisbond | Jun 23, 2007 1:51:31 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.