The influential social conservatives who comprise the Arlington Group met over the weekend to discuss the possibility of endorsing a presidential candidate and could not reach a consensus, according to a source familiar with the process.
Though leaders of the individual organizations may make their own endorsements, those selections “cannot be considered a blanket endorsement by the ‘Religious Right,'” according to the source.
While many leaders want to endorse fan favorite Mike Huckabee, others are more hesitant. The source informed me that “the dilemma is over whether to choose the preferred candidate of their constituents or go with the pragmatic choice and risk offending our base.”
According to the source, James Dobson of Focus on the Family likes Mitt Romney, Gary Bauer of American Values prefers Fred Thompson, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association likes Huckabee. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council is still on the fence, but nearing a decision.
Social conservative leaders understand that splitting up the vote may make a Rudy Giuliani nomination more likely. While there was a sense going into the weekend that the leaders would possibly coalesce around Romney for practical reasons, Huckabee’s rock star reception at the Value Voters Summit made things more difficult.
Interestingly, the source described a “new pragmatic narrative” that may be forming: “None of the top-tier can beat Hillary anyway so why risk offending the base by snubbing Huckabee?”
Either way, social conservative leaders are in a bind.
“If we don’t support Huckabee we tick off religious conservatives,” the source lamented. “If we push Huckabee we tick off everyone else. It’s a tough situation to be in.”