Tonight, a number of conservative Christian groups will be holding a Values Voter Debate. The significance of this event may itself be debatable, since none of the candidates in the top tier — Giuliani, Thompson, Romney or McCain — will be participating. John Cox, however, will be; there are also rumors that Alan Keyes will be on hand, though I haven’t seen him listed in any of the organizers’ press releases.
Here is where the debate could, at least potentially, have some impact: When a Democratic interest group organizes a candidates’ forum, their party’s presidential contenders all come running. When groups purporting to represent the voting bloc that gave George W. Bush more than a third of his support in 2004, the frontrunners all stay away.
Will social conservatives be irritated by the snub? Will they take it out on the frontrunners courting them — mostly Romney and Thompson — and vote instead for Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback, Ron Paul, or any of the other candidates who will be there and might create a stir? Or is it merely the case that the groups sponsoring the event aren’t as representative of the conservative Christian voting bloc as they think they are, and the impact will be minimal?