The Republican presidential primary field entrenching into a Mitt Romney vs. Really Conservative Alternate Person contest presents a fine opportunity to see which regular employers of ultraconservative, uncompromising red meat rhetoric on the right are actually just establishment GOP operatives. Do they start fretting publicly about candidates' general election viability, or do they resist practical temptations and hold out for a true believer? In the case of haunting televangelist Pat Robertson, it's going to be the former.
Robertson, one of the few remaining elders of the Religious Right movement, surprised many in 2008 when he endorsed early frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, a pro-choice twice-divorced crossdressing former mayor of homosexual New York City. He thought Giuliani was the man to beat! He didn't know at the time, however, that Rudy Giuliani's brilliant strategy would be to skip the first 4 or 5 nominating contests, lose in Florida, and then drop out immediately.
It was an embarrassing episode for Robertson, so this year he's said he won't endorse anyone. And yet this agitated speech he gave on today's 700 Club indicates that he appreciates the Romney model, in which candidates recognize that there will in fact be general elections following primaries. From Right Wing Watch:
I believe it was Lyndon Johnson that said, ‘Don't these people realize if they push me over to an extreme position I'll lose the election? And I'm the one who will be supporting what they want but they're going to make it so I can't win.' Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They're forcing their leaders, the frontrunners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election. Now whether this did it to Cain I don't know, but nevertheless, you appeal to the narrow base and they'll applaud the daylights out of what you're saying and then you hit the general election and they say ‘no way' and then the Democrat, whoever it is, is going to just play these statements to the hilt. They've got to stop this! It's just so counterproductive!
So now you've heard it from Pat Robertson, top evangelical: Don't just "appeal to the narrow base" because "they'll applaud the daylights out of what you're saying," because that's what fools do.