PHOENIX When presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain invited several possible vice presidential candidates to his Arizona home over the weekend, conservative pundits and bloggers began debating the pros and cons of each possible selection.
Although McCain insisted the meeting wasn't a vetting process but merely a social event, some of those who were there -- particularly Charlie Crist, Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney -- are believed to be on McCain's list of possible running mates. Others, including Mike Huckabee -- who was celebrating his wedding anniversary -- were invited but chose not attend.
McCain has three months to pick a vice presidential nominee before the Republicans hold their national convention Sept. 1-4 in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Following, in alphabetical order, is a list of where some of the candidates who are thought to be on McCain's list stand on the major issues important to social conservatives:
CHARLIE CRIST Crist, the governor of Florida, is more liberal than McCain on most social issues.
Crist calls himself pro-life but essentially is pro-choice. He opposes overturning the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Crist even opposes a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman can get an abortion.
In a 1998 questionnaire for the St. Petersburg Times newspaper when he was running for U.S. Senate, Crist wrote: "I am pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. I believe that a woman has the right to choose, but would prefer only after careful consideration and consultation with her family, her physician and her clergy; not her government." Asked during a debate that year if he would back a constitutional amendment banning abortion, Crist responded, "No, I would not. I think this is a very personal decision."
Apparently he still holds those views, even though he calls himself pro-life. During 2006 he told reporters about the proposed 24-hour waiting period, according to the Times, "I don't think that politicians ought to put themselves in the place of physicians, and I think it's very important to respect the medical profession. Putting those kinds of legislative time limits on things, I just don't think is appropriate. Doctors ought to be doctors."
During the 2006 Republican primary, Florida Right to Life endorsed Crist's opponent. Crist also told the Florida Baptist Witness he supports same-sex civil unions.
In his campaign for governor, Crist signed the petition that placed a proposed constitutional marriage amendment on the 2008 ballot, but now is less enthusiastic about the proposal. In December, asked if he's campaigning for it, he implied he wouldn't and said, "It's not an issue that moves me." He further said, "I'm just a live and let live kind of guy."
Crist also supports gambling expansion in the state.
Connie Mackay, senior vice president for the pro-family group Family Research Council Action, told CBN's David Brody, "We have concerns about Governor Crist. While he claims to be pro-life he has not been an advocate.... We would not be supportive of his candidacy for vice president."
MIKE HUCKABEE Huckabee made headlines with his surprising surge during the 2008 primaries and caucuses with wins in eight states. In a campaign short on cash, much of his strength came from evangelicals and social conservatives -- a strength that some say could gives McCain a boost among such voters. He received the endorsement of Focus on the Family's James Dobson late in the campaign.
A former Southern Baptist pastor and governor of Arkansas for 10 years, Huckabee made his pro-life views -- including his support for a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- a key part of his campaign.
"For many of us, this is not a political issue; this is an issue of principle and conviction," he said during a January debate. "And it goes to the heart of who we are as a country."
During a February interview with Baptist Press, Huckabee said the Republican Party must make sure social conservatives aren't relegated to the "back of the bus." Social conservative issues, he said, are central to the party's beliefs.
"Either this is a party that social conservatives have a home in or we don't," he said. "... We've paid our dues."
Huckabee opposes embryonic stem cell research and supports a federal marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban "gay marriage" nationwide. As governor, he and his wife took part in a public ceremony where they converted their 30-year marriage into a covenant marriage -- a Bible-based covenant that affirms marriage as a lifelong commitment.
During his presidential run, Huckabee often preached in churches on Sundays, speaking mostly about his faith and avoiding politics.
"Faith doesn't just influence me," he said. "It really defines me. I don't have to wake up every day wondering, 'What do I need to believe?'"
During debates Huckabee regularly fielded questions about matters of faith and was one of three GOP candidates to signal they didn't believe in evolution. He later told the Des Moines Register, "If you want to believe that your family came from apes, that's fine. I'll accept that. I just don't happen to think that I did."
He also issued a statement saying he is not against the teaching of evolution in public schools but believes "different theories" about mankind's origins should be taught.
BOBBY JINDAL At age 36, Jindal was elected governor of Louisiana in 2007 to become the nation's youngest state chief executive. He also has been a champion of social conservative causes.
In 2006 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Jindal voted for the federal marriage amendment. Last year, before being elected governor, he sided with pro-lifers in voting against a bill that would have provided public funding for embryonic stem cell research.
On abortion, he said in 2003, "I am 100 percent pro-life with no exceptions. I believe all life is precious."
Jindal, who as an Indian-American was the first non-white elected governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction, is Catholic and in 1996 wrote about the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism for the New Oxford Review, a Roman Catholic magazine. That article became the focus of a Democratic attack ad during the 2007 campaign, with the ad calling Jindal's words anti-Protestant. The ad was widely criticized as untrue.
"I'm not one of those people that thinks you can have a private [and] public morality," Jindal said during a 2007 gubernatorial debate. "... In my faith, in the church, we're taught that you give ... 100 percent of yourself to God."
Jindal also supports schools being able to teach Intelligent Design.
"I'm a biology major," he said during the debate. "That's my degree. The reality is there are a lot of things that we don't understand. There's no theory in science that could explain how -- contrary to the laws of entropy -- you could create order out of chaos. There's no scientific theory that explains how you can create organic life out of inorganic matter. I think we owe it to our children to teach them the best possible modern scientific facts and theories. Teach them what different theories are out there for the things that aren't answerable by science, that aren't answered by science. Let them decide for themselves. I don't think we should be scared to do that. Personally, it certainly makes sense to me that when you look at creation, you would believe in a Creator."
TIM PAWLENTY Re-elected as governor of Minnesota in 2006, Pawlenty is pro-life and has spoken at March for Life rallies in St. Paul on the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. At the 2006 rally, he told marchers, according to the Associated Press, "We have a dream today that someday soon this will not be an anniversary of sadness, but an anniversary of justice restored." He also has signed into law several pro-life bills, including one requiring a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion.
He has received high marks from pro-family officials on a number of issues. This year he vetoed a bill that would have allowed local governments to offer marriage-like domestic partner benefits to their homosexual employees. He also has been a staunch supporter of a proposed constitutional marriage amendment, although it has failed to make it out of the legislature. In addition, he has opposed so-called comprehensive sex education.
He recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed taxpayer dollars be used for embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning, LifeNews.com reported. In his veto message he encouraged the use of alternatives.
"Significant and promising progress continues to be made on the use of adult stem cells. This creates ample opportunity to work toward lifesaving cures," Pawlenty said. "We should encourage this science."
He told a gathering of Republicans in 2006 that Minnesota, long considered a left-leaning state, is becoming conservative.
"We're fighting a tradition that is deeply liberal," he said. "But it's changing. It's changing. And we do not want to go back."
MITT ROMNEY After serving as governor of Massachusetts for one term, Romney chose not to seek re-election and instead to run for the Republican nomination. He dropped out after a poor showing on Super Tuesday.
Romney made a name for himself among social conservatives when, as governor, he opposed the landmark decision by the Massachusetts high court legalizing "gay marriage." He led a statewide effort -- ultimately unsuccessful -- to pass a constitutional amendment that would have overturned the court's ruling.
"What [the judges] ignored is that marriage is not primarily about adults," he said at a pro-family rally in 2006. "Marriage is about the nurturing and development of children. Every child deserves a mother and a father."
During January on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Romney released a statement saying he believed the decision should be overturned.
"We recognize the worth and dignity of every person, a fact that is ingrained in our hearts and etched in our national purpose," the statement said. "Unelected judges should not be the final arbiters on these important decisions which define who we are as a people."
Romney, though, has been criticized for his past liberal positions on social issues, including his support during the 1990s for both abortion rights and "gay rights." In April more than 20 social conservative leaders -- such as Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and J. Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America -- signed an open letter to McCain, urging him not to pick Romney as his running mate.
During a GOP debate Romney said he regretted taking a pro-choice position when running for Senate in the 1990s.
"I am pro-life," he said at the debate. "... And several years ago, when we faced the issue of cloning of embryos in our state, I wrote an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe and said I am pro-life. And every action I've taken as governor of Massachusetts has been pro-life."
At an earlier debate, he said of his position on "gay rights," "I have always been somebody who opposes discrimination, but I also consistently feel that it's critical to have marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman."
MARK SANFORD Sanford, 48, has been governor of South Carolina since 2003 and won re-election in 2006. He is pro-life and once told state legislators, in a statement, "I believe life is sacred, and in the debate over when life begins I believe that as a society we should always err on the side of life."
In 2007 Sanford supported a bill that would have required women seeking a abortion to view an ultrasound beforehand. It would have been a first-of-its-kind law but was watered down. The final version, which was passed and signed into law by Sanford, simply gives women the option of viewing an ultrasound.
"This new ultrasound requirement is an important one in that I think it has the potential to lessen the number of abortions carried out in South Carolina," he said in a 2007 statement supporting the bill.
Sanford also supported a successful effort in 2006 to add a marriage amendment to the state constitution.
"You've drifted a long way when you have to actually go about the business of defining what marriage is," he said that year, according to the Associated Press.