Evangelicals Gather at Summit

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a favorite among evangelicals, announces that he is leaving the presidential race because of fundraising difficulties.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a favorite among evangelicals, announces that he is leaving the presidential race because of fundraising difficulties. (By Larry W. Smith -- Getty Images)
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 20, 2007

Evangelical voters gathered here yesterday to weigh their political options even as one of their champions, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, officially withdrew from the 2008 presidential contest, robbing many of their first choice in the Republican nominating battle.

The 2,000 activists attending the Values Voter Summit listened to the candidates, some prayed for guidance, and many expressed deep discomfort with the Republican Party's two front-runners: former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Romney presented himself as the antiabortion, pro-family, pro-religion contender whom Christian conservatives are seeking.

"I'll oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, oppose partial-birth abortion. I'll oppose abortion in military clinics. I'll work to ban embryonic cloning," Romney promised.

Romney only briefly mentioned his Mormon faith, a source of concern among some Christian groups, saying, "I understand that some people think that they couldn't support someone of my faith," then joking that they must be thinking of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who is also a Mormon.

Giuliani is scheduled to face the group this morning with a message that emphasizes areas where he agrees with social conservatives, such as national security, taxes and the economy.

But in the meeting halls of the Hilton Washington hotel, neither candidate engendered much enthusiasm. "I love his ideas on national security and defense, but you have to swallow the whole pill," Tammy Leinbach, a stay-at-home mom from Maumee, Ohio, said of Giuliani. "Our international ills come because of the warped social ills we have at home."

Craig Chorman, 54, a small-business owner from Fairport, N.Y., said he does not trust Romney's declarations of support for conservative issues because as governor, he took different positions.

"I feel like he hasn't been as consistent, and that concerns me," said Chorman. "We need somebody who stands with their core beliefs instead of putting his finger up in the wind."

Chorman said he voted in the gathering's straw poll for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Brownback pulled the plug on his presidential bid in Topeka, citing difficulty raising money and saying, "My yellow brick road came just short of the White House this time."

Brownback had captured only a few percentage points in most national polls and finished third in Iowa's straw poll this summer, despite campaigning across the state and pouring resources into winning Iowa's evangelical vote.

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