Will the Anti-McCain Surge Go to the Constitution Party?
Thanks to the anti-McCain surge by the religious right and the wider conservative movement, the neo-theocratic Constitution Party is back in the news.
The Associated Press reports that disaffected conservatives are rumbling about voting for the Constitution Party candidate this year. Over several election cycles, the Constitution Party (formerly the U.S. Taxpayers Party) has remained the third largest party in the U.S., although the Green Party and the Libertarian Parties tend to get more press. In the past, such figures as Pat Buchanan, Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH), Alan Keyes, and Roy Moore have flirted with seeking the party presidential nomination, but the party has never managed to snag a candidate with sufficient star power to be much of a factor in national elections, and tends to be on the ballot in less than 40 states.
Will this year be any different?
Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and anti-abortion activist, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that while he could back the Arizona senator over either Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, he made clear that he and others in the evangelical movement are not content with those choices.
"I'll be working in other ways to see that we have additional choices as conservatives," Fischer said.
He declined to elaborate, but held out hope that Mike Huckabee might mount an improbable comeback, or that another "good conservative, Godly, Christian pro-life" GOP candidate somehow emerge to supplant McCain. The Arizona lawmaker has opposed abortion during his four terms in the Senate.
Fischer also volunteered an alternative scenario: supporting the nominee of the fledgling Constitution Party.
The Constitution Party, which calls itself "completely pro-life, pro-gun, pro-American sovereignty and independence," has secured spots on about 16 state ballots and hopes to exceed 40, national field director Gary Odom said. The party has nominated founder Howard Phillips as its presidential candidate in the past and will select its candidate in April.
The Party convention will be held April 23-26 at the Kansas City Marriott Hotel Downtown in Kansas City, Missouri. It is not at all clear who their candidate might be. However, in a recent article by party chair Jim Clymer, they are apparently open to suggestions:
Unlike the Republican Party which rejected Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, the Constitution Party embraces much of the philosophy and principles that they articulated. Any candidate of their stature and history would be welcomed in the Constitution Party.
None of those is a possibility, but it is interesting that Clymer didn't mention Perennial GOP candidate (three times for president; and respectively, as the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate from Maryland and later, from Illinois) -- Alan Keyes.
Keyes has openly met with party leaders several times this campaign season. I wrote last fall:
... in a speech to the Constitution Party's National Committee last year, he promised to bolt the Republican Party if it nominates "some pro-abort at any place on the ticket" and if he does, to try to take as many as he can with him. Keyes concluded his speech by strongly suggesting that GOP front-runners Sen. John McCain, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Romney were all unacceptable to Christian conservatives -- and that the nomination of any of them would be a "betrayal:"
Because I know for sure that if they nominate some pro-abort at any place on the ticket, I will leave the Republican Party. I have said this before, and I will do it. But I think that it's really important that neither I nor others leave the party alone. We must take with us all those we can rouse so that a new possibility is created for America.
But that means, y'all, that this moment of crisis for the country, crisis for the Republican Party is a moment of opportunity and challenge for you. For, in many respects, in your principles, in your platform, in your courage--in the courage that you have shown as individuals, you represent the very thing America needs most. Are you ready for this challenge? That's the question, and it's not an easy one to answer.
As recently as February 11th, Keyes made it clear that he could not support Huckabee, and especially McCain:
"He [has] betrayed conservatism in the name of bipartisanship, but actually in the name of trying to serve his own presidential ambition.
"So, I find it entirely implausible that good hearted and good conscienced conservatives are suddenly going to forget that whole record, which in point of fact means that [McCain's] been moving in a direction indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton. The only difference will be the label," Keyes suggested.
Candidate Keyes, who has been all but ignored after being dropped from GOP candidate debates, is currently on a sustained, apparently last stand six week campaign swing through Texas.
Keyes: I've been in Texas since mid-January. I started in San Antonio, have traveled to Austin for March for life, El Paso, Lubbock, Kerrville, and now Beaumont.
I will go to the Dallas-Fort Worth area; we will try to reach every major area in the state before March 4. Conservative pro-life, pro-Consitution-their choice is on the ballot.
We are reaching out to people. They believe in what I have articulated for many years, going around the state, rallying those forces so they can help us to spread the word.
Keyes: I have no plans beyond winning the Texas primary and moving on to the convention, where I believe that the conservatives will come together in order to nominate the kind of alternative that America needs.
Or perhaps he is planning to peel off as many conservatives as possible from the GOP for the Constitution Party.
In any case, the Constitution Party is the wild card the conservative movement has yet to play.