Newspaper poll: Evangelicals won't support pro-choice candidate

NEW YORK, N.Y. — A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that white, evangelical Republicans agree with a group of conservative activists who say they won't support a pro-choice candidate.

Nearly 60 percent of those who plan to vote in the primaries said they could not support a candidate they didn't agree with on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Eighty-six percent said presidential candidates should be judged on both their political record and their personal life.

A group of about 40 conservative activists met in Salt Lake City in early October to discuss support for a third party candidate. A few days later, Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times to clarify his position: "Speaking personally, and not for the organization I represent, I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed."

Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, a Texas-based group that has a network of 5,000 pastors willing to mobilize their churches to vote, said evangelicals are not bluffing.

"I am not going to cast a sacred vote granted to me by the blood of millions of God-fearing Americans who died on the fields of battle for freedom, for a candidate who says it's OK to kill the unborn," he told The Times. "I just can't."

But forming a third party may be a daunting task. 

"The reason conservatives don't have the kind of influence in the party we want is because we are not willing to get in the trenches," said a Washington, D.C., area activist who attended the meeting. "We're talking about taking over the presidency, when we can't even take over our own county commissions and city councils." 

Jim Clymer, president of the Constitution Party, acknowledged that his own party, which has been at this for years, is not even on the ballot in many states.

If the cost of running a third party candidate is great, the cost of tilting the election toward the Democrats, which a conservative third party candidate would likely do, is even greater for some at the meeting. 

After the meeting in a letter to supporters, Gary Bauer, a former presidential candidate and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families warned about the implications of diluting the vote.

"It would break my heart if we ended up with two pro-abortion candidates. Nonetheless, I urged extreme caution to those attending this meeting. We should not forget that the Clinton presidency came about because a third party effort divided conservative votes in 1992. The Clinton years were a disaster."