- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The pro-choice views of some popular Republicans — such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — likely will undermine their ability to win the party’s presidential nomination in 2008, party strategists say.

“I don’t think there is anything happening in the party per se on this issue. We are a pro-life party and will remain so,” said Republican campaign strategist Bill Dal Col, who managed Steve Forbes’ 2000 presidential campaign.

“At the end of the day, only the pro-life social conservative will be the nominee in 2008.”

Still, other strategists argue that a candidate like Miss Rice, who last week told editors and reporters at The Washington Times that she is “mildly pro-choice,” but who is considered very strong on national security and foreign policy, could indeed win the top slot on the Republican ticket.

“It’s certainly being discussed, and I think there is concern within the pro-life activist community that there may be a candidate who’s not acceptable to them who could emerge as a victor,” said Republican consultant Cheri Jacobus.

Miss Rice’s name has been thrown into the ring by several Republicans as a 2008 contender, especially if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, decides to run. Mrs. Clinton in recent years has softened her pro-choice stance to reflect the idea that abortion should always be legal, but efforts should be made to limit it.

Miss Rice told The Times on Friday that she has “never wanted to run for anything” and that she “really can’t imagine it,” but didn’t rule out a presidential run. She then shut that door Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” telling host Tim Russert, “I will not run for president of the United States.”

In a Marist College poll last month, Mr. Giuliani was the top choice for president among Republican possibilities for 2008, winning 25 percent. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was second with 21 percent, and Miss Rice was third with 14 percent.

Mr. Giuliani is pro-choice and Miss Rice, when defining herself as “mildly pro-choice,” said she wouldn’t want the government forcing its views on people.

“So, for instance, I’ve tended to agree with those who do not favor federal funding for abortion, because I believe that those who hold a strong moral view on the other side should not be forced to fund it,” Miss Rice said Friday.

Mr. McCain generally votes pro-life, but he got into trouble on the issue during his 1999 try at the Republican nomination, when he told the San Francisco Chronicle that, “Certainly in the short-term or even the long-term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade.”

He later wrote to the National Right to Life Committee pledging “unequivocal support for overturning” the Roe v. Wade decision.

Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, said being pro-life is essential to nationwide success in the Republican Party.

“I anticipate whoever the nominee is, he or she will be pro-life,” Mr. Lessner said.

But Ms. Jacobus said there will indeed be an internal fight over what the priorities for a 2008 presidential candidate should be. She said it is “realistic” that foreign policy “will take precedence” over other issues, like abortion.

Kellyanne Conway, Republican pollster and analyst, noted that while abortion once was a “hot” issue, it has become “muted if not neutered” by other social issues such as same-sex “marriage,” cloning and religious freedom.

Democrats said the popularity of pro-choice Republicans signals a shift.

“It should send a signal to the party if nothing else that their base wants their party to move to the center on choice,” said Jano Cabrera, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.

Republicans balked at that, arguing that it’s prominent Democrats who have been trying to move away from their extreme pro-choice views lately.

Mr. Lessner said that it’s simply too early in the process and that so current polls can only measure celebrity status. “They don’t reflect any mature political thinking about who best embodies the principles of the Republican Party and who should be the standard-bearer,” he said.

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