It's showdown time in the Republican Party, and the lines are becoming increasingly fuzzy.
Those who follow this column know that the candidacy of Ralph Reed, former national leader of the Christian Coalition, has been of particular interest to me. He is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
For that matter, his race has proved to be of great interest to major news organizations across the nation. The difference is that I have known Reed since he was 20 years old. We have worked together on national and regional campaigns.
I find myself in a tough position. Because I lead a company that is polling and reporting on his race, others in my organization join me in sticking to our absolute rule of nonpartisanship. That includes playing no favorites in intra-party battles.
Complicating the situation is a trend we're seeing in some states. Sophisticated, "Christian-conservative" candidates such as Reed are being linked with the likes of Randall Terry, former leader of the anti-abortion movement "Operation Rescue." Terry is now in Florida, where he is taking on that state's former state Senate president Jim King in his bid for re-election.
What's amazing is that Reed's ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which have yet to produce any hint of a criminal indictment or even a targeted investigation of Reed, have become the center of national and even international media scrutiny.
Yet, it's Terry, last known as spokesperson for the family of "right-to-die" icon Terri Schiavo, who has in the past been characterized as a true extremist. His past includes skirmishes with the law, not to mention the Republican Party. And yet, Florida media have barely made mention of him.
To be fair, Terry insists he is a changed man; and there are always two sides to every story. This isn't a "trash Randall Terry" story.
Rather, I use his story -- or lack of one, lately -- to illustrate how a man like Reed, who served as George W. Bush's southeastern chairman in his 2004 re-election campaign, can be vilified so quickly, while candidate Terry, with a past of more tangible controversy, skates by the notice of the press.
Most significant is to consider what races like these are doing to the GOP around the nation.
In the instances of both Reed and Terry, their primary elections are expected to generate low voter turnout. In Reed's case, there is no gubernatorial contest of consequence, thus no top of the ticket to draw voters. In Terry's case, the Florida primary appears to be all but a lock for that state's perfectly polished attorney general, Charlie Crist, in his quest for the party's nomination for governor.