Well, so much for this prediction. (I suppose if there was any chance of Thompson getting Brownback’s support, it definitely went out the window with that MTP interview this week.) Brownback will apparently endorse McCain. Given the McCain campaign’s revenant-like return from the dead (he now runs in second in some national polls and still has decent numbers in the early states), it made a lot more sense for Brownback to support the candidate who has been bending over backwards in the last year to
accommodate pander to religious conservatives. Once McCain appeared to be realistically competitive again, he would have been the clear choice for Brownback on account of Thompson’s underwhelming campaign style and perceived unreliability on life issues.
The Caucus has more of the inside story:
Mr. Brownback said that Mr. Giuliani made a very aggressive pitch in trying to win his support and delivered a message on abortion privately that was different from what he says publicly.
“Giuliani pitched a much more pro-life message,” he said. Mr. Giuliani emphasized his support of “strict constructionist judges,” which he does often in public. But Mr. Brownback said he was more explicit. “I come at it in a different angle but I get to the same position you do.”
In other words, he started saying whatever he thought Brownback wanted to hear. Wisely, Brownback went with someone who has actually backed up his
convenient election-year rhetoric deeply-held principles with action.
Incidentally, Giuliani winning Pat Robertson’s endorsement actually seems much less electorally significant to me. (It makes for a good headline for Giuliani, and will cause a lot of pundits to declare prematurely that the “litmus test” really is as dead as some jingoes hoped it was.) The endorsements of Brownback and Robertson represent two distinct kinds of religious conservatism, one of which is, for good or ill, on the rise and the other which is in decline. Brownback, whatever else I might say about him, represents a new generation of religious conservative political leadership, and he adopts many “non-traditional” policies as part of his broader Christian reform vision. Robertson is one of the last of the old guard whose political influence has actually been on the wane for some time. The endorsement of Giuliani seems to me to be a rather sad cry for attention, a last attempt to be relevant in presidential politics by doing something “surprising.” It seems to me that the calculation of the move will undermine the symbolic value Giuliani was hoping to derive from it. Of course, any leading campaign would still want to be able to have such an endorsement, but in most of the primaries I am guessing that it isn’t as valuable as Brownback’s.