Perhaps you have never heard of the really hush hush private Council for National Policy. It has a bland enough name. Actually what this club is, is a strategy group of a few hundred members including James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and other Evangelical Republicans, as well as others with conservative leanings in politics. You can read about their meeting a month ago in Florida here--
There seems to be a lot of dismay amongst this group that they have found no obvious champion for their causes in the extant Republican candidates for the 08 general election. John McCain has been ruled out because he once called some of these Evangelical leaders "agents of intolerance". Rudolph Guliani has been ruled out because of his stance on marriage, gay rights, and abortion (not to mention his own marriage history). Mitt Romney causes worries because of his former views on stem cell research, abortion, and gay rights though he has worked to allay fears on those fronts. But his Mormonism itself causes even more angst for some. Lesser known candidates invited to the meeting were, well, lesser known, and not electable or delectable, so there is great concern on this conservative front. While this group was regularly courted and consulted by the Bush regime, the group now may be marginalized in the run up to the election since they have found no stalking horse for their causes.
A little history about this group is in order. It was founded by Timothy LaHaye (yes, the author of the Left Behind series!) 25 years ago to help conservative Christians gain more political clout and strategize. It has been influential in Republican politics out of all proportion to its size. In recent years it has reached out to and included other sorts of conservatives such as Wayne Lapierre the head of the N.R.A. I suppose this was a connection bound to happen since Moses himself (aka Charleton Heston) was long the poster boy for the N.R.A.
Of course the problem for this group is they are fighting on too many fronts, and they can't find a candidate that lines up with them on all their hot button issues. For example, many in this group are opposed to Bush's guest work program approach to illegal aliens, an approach adopted by various Republican presidential hopefuls. And not surprisingly, with folks like LaHaye and Falwell involved in this group there is a lot of focus on Islamic terrorism, even while in the general American public the enthusiasm for the war in Iraq continues to decline. It appears that conservative Evangelicals such as these will be the last to abandon that effort. But this in turn makes whatever candidate they endorse less electable if he comes out with a pro-war position.
However, as politics like religion continue to make strange bedfellows there is no telling what may be next for this group of planners. One of those interviewed for the article discussed the concept of -- "second virginity". That is, a candidate, if he would pledge not to raise taxes any more, or not to support a guest worker program any more, or not to inhibit the pro-business lobby any more, or to do an about face and support a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage, could regain favor with this group. The group likes Governor Huckabee from Arkansas, a former Southern Baptist minister, but he will have to reassure them about the recent tax referendums in his state, and in any case, he appears to be unelectable at this juncture. The situation has been compared to when Dole and Clinton were the candidates running, and many conservatives voted for third party candidates or no one at all. Whatever happens, at this juncture, this group seems to be on the downward slope of being influential within the Republican party insofar as the next Presidential candidate is concerned. But time will tell.