Pro-Choice Ridge Promises the White House, but Can Anti-Choice Voters Believe?

Scott Swenson

McCain floats a pro-choice Republican veep trial balloon as Obama schedules a pro-life Democrat to speak at convention. Pennsylvania's role in the general election is undisputed.

Pennsylvania is flipping the script on the politics of partisanship and the issue of choice in 2008.

Sen. John McCain made clear he is seriously considering former Governor Tom Ridge, a proudly pro-choice Republican, to be his running mate. Sen. Barack Obama, is giving a primetime speaking role to Sen. Bob Casey, a pro-life Democrat whose father was denied a speaking role at the 1992 convention by Bill Clinton. As Emily Douglas writes today, Casey will be speaking to a Democratic Convention whose platform makes a strong statement for all choices, from choosing to have a child, to choosing not to, and makes explicit calls for improved sex-ed, access to contraception and reproductive health services.

Ridge may have a tougher fight on his hand just to get the nomination, and will likely have a much cooler reception at the GOP convention if he does. But Ridge has made a strong case for himself on the talk show circuit, saying to Chris Matthews on Hardball this week, "No equivocation. If we win Pennsylvania, we win it all." NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd agrees saying in a separate interview that it is tough to see how Democrats win the White House without Pennsylvania.

McCain continues to fuel speculation in recent interviews, saying he won’t rule out a pro-choice running mate;

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John McCain yesterday said he would not rule out picking a
pro-choice running mate, a move seen as a boost for former Pennsylvania
Gov. Tom Ridge, who joined the presumptive GOP nominee for two days of
campaign events in his home state. However, McCain may simply have been
throwing a bone to Ridge after seeming to indicate the former Homeland
Security secretary would not be tapped in remarks to reporters in Erie.

The Washington Times
reports McCain said Wednesday "that he would not rule out naming a
pro-choice vice-presidential nominee, saying the abortion issue amounts
to ‘a disagreement’ and that he thinks conservatives would accept
former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who is pro-choice, as a potential
running mate." McCain told the Weekly Standard in an interview
published on the magazine’s Web site Wednesday afternoon, "Tom Ridge is
one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don’t
think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out."


That’s different from the "difficulty" McCain saw getting Ridge on the ticket when Chris Matthews interviewd McCain in April;

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Would you put a person on the ticket with you like
the former governor of this state, who is very popular, Tom Ridge, even
though he may disagree — even though he may disagree with you on the
issue of Roe v. Wade and abortion rights? Would you put somebody on the ticket like that, on that one issue would it stop him?

JOHN MCCAIN: I don’t know if it would stop him but it would be difficult.


MSNBC’s First Read covers the changing choice landscape this way;

So here’s the $64,000 question: Are the Dems more open to pro-lifers
than the GOP is to pro-choicers? The answer is yes if you read the
platforms. But if you look at the presidential running mates, you might
side with the GOP — especially after McCain told the Weekly Standard
that he would be open to selecting the pro-choice Tom Ridge as his
running mate. (Let’s not forgot that Joe Lieberman is pro-choice as
well). Planned Parenthood yesterday applauded the Dem platform on
abortion and Casey’s speaking role, but what makes us think that
National Right to Life and the Family Research Council won’t take too
kindly as Ridge as the GOP running mate?


And far-right social conservatives are getting their blood pressure up over McCain’s pro-choice trial balloon;

If McCain is serious about selecting a pro-abortion Vice President,
then he betrays God, the Bible, every decent American who believes that
every mortal in this nation deserves protection from murder and the law
of civility.

McCain cannot afford to waffle on the abortion
issue.If he waffles on that major point, he reveals that he is not to
be trusted on values issues, particularly the right to life and the
pursuit of happiness in this country.

McCain, worshiping
regularly at a mega-Baptist church in Phoenix along with wife and
children, knows better than even to open the political door to any
abortion enthusiast. To sideline that ethical issue in favor of
compromise is to show a McCain who is more politically opportunistic
than moral absolutist.

The pro-McCain endorsers are watching quite closely his value judgments. McCain dares not to betray them.


Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention said McCain’s choice of Ridge would be a "catastrophe." James Oliphant characterized an interview with Land writing;

McCain and evangelical Christians now are partners in
a marriage of convenience. But Land said that could change if
McCain blows his vice presidential pick. He warned McCain that if he
chooses a Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman, all bets are off.


For anti-choice social conservatives, this must be a very humbling election. With golden boys like the Christian Coaltion’s Ralph Reed exposed in the Jack Abrahmoff scandal, and the likes of Tom Delay gone, the smoke and mirrors that allowed a small slice of the elctorate disproportionate access to power, has been exposed for the fraud it always was. In McCain they have a nominee they have never really trusted, and now with active speculation that pro-choice Tom Ridge (or Joe Lieberman) may be on the GOP ticket, they must be demoralized.

The question for social conservatives is two-fold:

  1. Can they swallow Ridge if he truly represents four more years of a GOP presidency and thus the right to influence the selection of the next two or perhaps three Supreme Court justices?
  2. Can they really trust McCain and Ridge if they are elected not to revert to their old ideas about the far-right being "agents of intolerance" and thus appointing Justices more like Stephen Bryer and David Souter than Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito?

For people who don’t like to gamble, these are tricky bets to place, and the harsh reality of only being about 15-17 percent of electorate, is settling in.



Topics and Tags:

Bob Casey, Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge

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