Will the Anti-McCain Surge Go to the Constitution Party?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 12:07:50 PM EST
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.

What's next?

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.

Alan Keyes is a proven loser when it comes to elections, and even protest voters don't like backing losers.  I waste far too much time reading some of the wackier right-wing message boards and many of the religious fundamentalists whom you would think would be Keyes' natural base of support also think he's too far "out there".   They may respect his views and oratory, but most of them would never vote for him.

Keyes would be a terrible choice for the Constitution Party if they want to capitalize on McCain's nomination.  They're not going to get a Republican candidate like Paul or Hunter (who would be their dream candidate) but they should be looking to someone other than Keyes if they had a ounce of sense.  

To me it seems that Roy Moore would be their best bet.  Ironically, given the right's hatred of the so-called "victim mentality", Moore is attractive precisely because he is viewed as the victim of the secular forces in America.  And despite his final demise, he can point to victories in the court house and the ballot box to show that he is a winner.   I have no idea if Moore is interested in a run, but if he's looking to make an impact then he's not going to have a better chance than this year.

by tacitus on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 01:24:41 PM EST

I mention Keyes because Clymer did not, even though the CP has been glad to have Keyes address their national steering commitee gatherings.  

The question then becomes, if not Keyes -- who?  Roy Moore lost his GOP primary challenge to the incumbent governor by almost 2-1 as I recall.  So he has a bit a loser cache on him now too. But still, I agree that he would be a stonger candidate than Keyes.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 03:18:57 PM EST

Well, until Romney left the race, there was discussion of having Huckabee be a potential Constitution Party candidate...now, I think possibly the most viable candidates they have are either Roy Moore or one of the other dominionist leaders tied with the Constitution Party.

If dominionists protest against a McCain/Huckabee ticket, this could be very good for a Democratic candidate--you will likely have some stick with Huck, but if a substantial percentage of dominionists either stay home or go Constitution Party...well, that will split the GOP vote nicely (because there's just as many people who aren't dominionists who are typical GOP voters who can't stand Huckabee).

Now, if a mass bailout (or even a partial bailout) of dominionists happens in 2008...what's really going to be interesting is what happens in 2012, when dominionists are in the swing of a reorganisation cycle.

by dogemperor on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 04:50:57 PM EST

Actually, the more I think about it, the more it would make sense for the Constitution Party to up the pressure on Ron Paul to get him to run with them.  None of the other options will garner anywhere near as much attention and support.

Paul is still running ads daily here in Texas for the Republican primary, which seems to be an utter waste of money if he's really only interested in scoring a few delegates in his home state.  The odds of a brokered convention are almost nil and he's running far behind McCain and Huckabee already.

His own primary is also on the 4th March, and should he win that he seems pretty safe in November given that he won handily in 2006. (Though I guess he could fear Obama's coattails)

So given that the Constitution Party's convention isn't until April, that should give them plenty of time to apply the full court press on Ron Paul.  He may be nuts, but he's got more support and more money than anyone else they could find by a long, long way.  Unless the Iraq War is still going strong in 2012 then this is probably Paul's best chance to have a decent showing in the presidential elections.

The only down side (for us) is that he's probably the only Constitution Party candidate who would get votes from the left -- those who are only interested in protesting the war.  However, it would still be more damaging to McCain's chances than Obama and probably Clinton.

If I were the leaders on the Constitution Party I would be on the phone to Ron Paul every day between now and their convention.  Unless some other political star pops out of the woodwork, Ron Paul is the best they've got, by a long, long way.

by tacitus on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:01:33 AM EST

but Ron Paul has said he is sticking with the GOP, and is currently, mostly off the presidential campain trail, defending his seat in Congress.

Its my sense that there are a lot of fingers being held to the wind at the moment. But it seems unlikely that there will be sufficient dissatisfaction with McCain on the farther shores of the religious right to drive the schism. Alan Keyes was correct in his assessment in his speech to the CP national committee, that what would make a difference would be if a number of leaders (and, of course, what followers they could take with them), bolted to the CP. I am not getting a sense that that is happening, yet.

At the moment, I think the most likely scenario is that a large number of movement conservatives will do what Viguerie and Weyrich have advocated, and that is essentially what they did in 1976, sit this one out while positioning themselves for the future.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 10:23:52 AM EST

haw-haw. Bring 'em on!

by SharonB on Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 04:14:38 PM EST

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