Huckabee knocking Romney’s evolving stances on values issues like abortion rights is nothing new, but comparing him to the flip-flopping John Kerry in an interview with CBN’s David Brody is. The question is whether Huckabee’s latest salvo says more about his own vulnerabilities than about Romney’s. God-o-Meter sees that the former Arkansas Governor is struggling to translate his second place finish in this month’s Ames straw poll into a surge in fundraising or support, while Romney finished first in Ames, is raking in the dough, and leads early primary state polls. Trying to maintain his Mr. Nice Guy image, Huckabee calls Romney a “man of integrity” but “It doesn’t mean the Democrats will lay off of him when it comes to doing the same thing to him in a general election that Republicans did to John Kerry by rolling those pieces of videotape with conflicting statements.”
Romney’s evolving views, Huckabee says, “causes people to say how many different changes of position can one have during an adult’s lifespan as a politician and then be confidant that that person is going to have another epiphany at some point in the future?”
In the same interview, Huckabee says it’s only natural for voters to take Romney’s Mormonism into account. While other candidates have been queasy about doing so, God-o-meter notes that Huckabee has pretty great political cover in doing so: the former Baptist preacher wants voters–particularly the GOP’s evangelical base–to consider his own faith, too: “[E]verybody’s faith, their career, their family, all of those things are part of what helps people to determine whether a candidate is acceptable to them.”
Previous God-o-Meter reading: 6. Romney attracted some tut-tutting from the news media last week for telling a newspaper columnist he’d let states decide on whether to ban abortion—the practical effect of overturning Roe v. Wade—just a couple weeks after voicing support for a federal abortion ban. Still, the seemingly contradictory stances are in line with those of many social conservatives, who reason that Roe must be overturned in order to rescind the federal right to an abortion and open the door to a federal ban. In an interview with Bloomberg </a Romney stands by his statements, calling the GOP’s goal of a federal abortion ban an “aspirational view.” It’s a tactically shrewd maneuver for a candidate who needs to lend some consistency to his evolving views on social issues. But so long as the news media parse his every utterance—and God-o-Meter would be unemployed without the freedom to parse!—Romney still come off as a cynical opportunist on values.
Given that Larry Craig was Romney’s co-liaison to the U.S. Senate and chairman of his Idaho effort, God-o-Meter would think it difficult for him to score political points from the disclosure that the Idaho senator pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges after being arrested in an airport men’s room. But Romney, trying to sell himself as the GOP field’s values candidate, did what many Christian Right leaders declined to do after recent sex scandals involving Republican elected officials like former Florida Rep. Mark Foley and current Louisiana Senator David Vitter—he immediately denounced the accused. Romney accepted Craig’s offer to leave the campaign, and said his behavior “reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton.… frankly, it’s disgusting” (watch video).
Of course, Romney shouldn’t expect a major bump from his Craig denouncement, but a failure to quickly and forcefully disavow Craig could have hurt him among the pro-family crowd. Considered alongside his TV ad vowing to clean up the culture (watch video) and his drum-beating about his new pro-life stance, his performance today may earn him trust from those voters.
On its face, the central argument of today’s Washington Post story on Edwards makes some sense: “he is the sole Southern Democrat and cultural conservative in the Democratic presidential field, making him the only top-tier candidate in his party who can appeal easily to white men.” And while Edwards is now a United Methodist, he was raised in the faith tradition that produced the only two Democratic presidents of the last 40 years: Southern Baptist. Still, God-o-Meter feels that the obvious trouble with playing up Edwards’s religious or culture conservative appeal, as this article does, is that he is about as culturally conservative as Rudy Giuliani. Edwards supports abortion rights—decrying the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act—and backs gay civil unions and opposes “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”. In the debates so far, he has more insistent than Clinton or Barack Obama that his faith has no place in shaping his policy stances (though he said otherwise during his Beliefnet interview). It may be true, as the Washington Post reports, that Edwards is attracting mostly white crowds in the New Hampshire countryside. But hey, the state is more than 95% white, so God-o-Meter warns against making too much of it.