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Jewish World Review May 17, 2000 /12 Iyar, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Can Bush risk pro-choice running mate?


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE, George W. Bush will select his running mate. Should he even consider picking someone who is pro-choice? I believe not. Will it matter? I believe so, greatly.

Apparently, even among pro-life conservative Republicans there is no unanimity of opinion on this question. A few days ago, I was talking with a group of ardently pro-life friends who thought Bush should select the candidate who would add the most to the ticket, even if he were pro-choice. They didn't seem to think the vice presidential candidate's views on abortion were prohibitively important.

Their reasons and my responses:

Even a pro-life president can appoint liberal judges, such as David Souter. Well, I cannot deny that a conservative president can err by unintentionally appointing liberal, activist judges. My hope, though, is that Governor Bush has learned from the mistakes of his predecessors and will do a better job of vetting his appointees.

Bush will have a better chance of attracting moderates if he chooses a pro-choicer. I reject the idea that Republicans build their big tent by compromising on profound moral issues. They do so on the solid foundation of a committed conservative base who believe enough in their candidate to enthusiastically support him.

A pro-choice running mate who is otherwise a strong candidate will not drive off pro-life conservatives, because they have nowhere else to go. For example, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, despite not being pro-life, could help deliver his state's vitally important electoral votes. The fallacy with this argument is that they do have somewhere else to go. They can stay home, and some will. Beyond that, I don't think this is purely a numbers game. Many grass-roots voters are not merely one-dimensional. They do more than vote. They get out and work in the trenches for candidates they truly believe in. While many of them may still go to the polls and vote for Bush, they will do it devoid of enthusiasm and intensity.

In addition, I belong to the camp who believes that, generally speaking, a vice-presidential candidate can only hurt a ticket, not help it, even if he or she is a popular governor from a populous swing state. Maybe some undecided voters will be swayed by the running mate, but for the most part, they are going to base their decision on the presidential candidate alone, unless his running mate is affirmatively offensive. And to many pro-life voters, a pro-choice running mate will be abundantly offensive.

This will be a particular problem for Governor Bush. He won over the base with his unapologetically conservative approach in fending off the McCain challenge. Though his grass-roots support is solid, it is residually skeptical. I'm afraid his selection of a pro-choice running mate would cause that skepticism to ripen into disillusionment. Some might even conclude that he is not firmly pro-life himself, which would be devastating to his campaign.

Most pro-choice candidates will be troublesome to the base for another reason. Most of them are not strict constructionists of the Constitution. And few things are more objectionable to conservatives today than this nation's departure from its constitutional roots. While it is theoretically possible for a pro-choice person to be a strict constructionist, it is not likely. Most pro-choicers support Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that grafted into the Constitution the mother's right to privacy -- which severely restricts the power of states to regulate abortion.

Finally, a few words about the pro-life purists. They believe that abortion is fundamentally a moral issue -- one involving life and death, literally. It is not an issue about which they feel morally empowered to compromise. Extremism in defense of life is no vice.

On the other hand, it is perfectly reasonable for others to believe that such purists may ultimately set back their own cause by aiding and abetting Al Gore's quest for the White House. But the point of this column is not to address whether the purists would be justified in abandoning Bush or refusing to work for him if he selects a pro-choice running mate -- just whether they would and if it would make a difference. They would, and it would.


JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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Up

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05/08/00: Don't shoot Eddie Eagle
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03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
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02/24/00: A conservative firewall, after all
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02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
02/02/00: SDI must fly
01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
01/26/00: The issues gap
01/24/00: GOP: Exit, stage left
01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
01/18/00: Do voters really prefer straight talk?
01/12/00: Media's McCain efforts may backfire
01/10/00: Conservative racism myth
01/05/00: Just one more year of Clintonian politics
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12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
12/22/99: Bradley's full-court press
12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
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11/01/99: Signs of the times
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10/18/99: Senate GOP shows statesmanship
10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
10/11/99: Bush bites feeding hand
10/06/99: Jesse accidentally opens door for Pat
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09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
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09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
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09/13/99:Time for Bush to take charge, please
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09/07/99: Pat, savior or spoiler?
09/02/99: Character doesn't matter?
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07/30/99: Hate Crimes Bill: Cynical Symbolism
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07/19/99: Smith, Bush and the GOP
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06/30/99: Gore: a soda in every fountain
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06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?

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