Religious Right: Why are Dobson-Backed Candidates Losing?

June 5, 1998 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot writes, "A funny thing has happened" to Focus on the Family pres. James Dobson "on his way to controlling" the GOP: "His candidates are losing elections." The "real news" of Campaign '98 "has been the failure of Mr. Dobson's divide-and-conquer strategy within the GOP." The "quiet political winner on the right this year has been Ralph Reed and his fusion strategy of appealing to most party factions." Though Family Research Council President Gary Bauer has backed nine winners and eight losers, "most of his candidates in hotly contested races have lost." In "classic matchups" against GOP moderates, he's lost in OR, PA, IL, NE and CA.

"Even more telling," the Dobson-endorsed candidates "who have won tough races have had Mr. Reed as a major campaign adviser." Bob Dornan's primary victory in CA-46 "marked the first time a prominent" Dobson cand. won a GOP primary without Reed's help.

The Reed-Dobson "split is over strategy more than philosophy." Dobson "puts social issues like abortion and gay rights first." Reed "tries to blend those subjects with taxes and others that broaden his candidates' appeal." Dobson "broadcasts his message on TV and radio in a way that often makes him the issue." Reed "narrowcasts different messages to make the issues the issue." Dobson "threatens to leave the party when he loses a debate." (6/5).