Brownback Moves Toward White House Bid

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 04, 2006 12:01 AM

And, CNN starts the impartial coverage right outta the gate:

"Favorite of religious right moves towards White House bid." That's CNN's headline, but in case you didn't get the message, AP follows up with the lede:

Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, a favorite of the religious right, said Monday he is taking the first step toward launching a bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

A vigorous abortion opponent, the Kansas senator pledged to make "issues of life," fiscal restraint and tax reform key components of his effort to woo supporters.

Why don't they just call him mini-Falwell and get it over with?

I am unexcited by Brownback, though I know a lot of other people like him. It's interesting that he has the potential for both a big Protestant and Catholic following. This is a rare selling point for a candidate:

Despite his strong appeal among Protestant evangelicals and his Methodist roots, Brownback converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002 with the support of Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., another prominent social conservative. He says his faith guides his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research.

Might mess with the "evangelical vote" predictions a bit.

National Review notes that Brownback initially supported McCain-Feingold and, more worrisome, supported the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. The magazine offers another career path for Brownback:

If Brownback does choose to run, he will no doubt acquit himself honorably. He may also do so irrelevantly. Or worse: He could fracture the conservative base and contribute to the success of a “half-scale” Republican. If Brownback wants to advance conservatism, perhaps he should consider pursuing the governorship of his own state in 2010 and seeing where that leads. He’s only 50 years old. Or he could stay right where he is, doing what he’s already doing.

Capt. Ed takes a look at his legislative good side:

On the other hand, Brownback doesn't appear to have too many of these waffling points on the resume. On abortion, for instance, Brownback gets a perfect 100 from the National Right to Life Committee and a perfect 0 from NARAL. Likewise on the 2nd Amendment, he gets high praise from firearms groups and the worst ratings possible from gun-control advocates. He gets high marks from budget and tax hawks, but on immigration he appears to be a little bit of a squish. He supported the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform plan, a vote that will find him at odds with the conservative base he claims to represent.

He's got a couple of hurdles. First, of course, no one knows who he is. McCain and Giuliani are household names, and Romney's moving up there a bit. Brownback not only has to fight his own lack of name recognition, but I think he also has to fight his name. There's something about the name "Brownback" that carries a palpable sense of boredom with it. I have a feeling there are many people who couldn't cast a vote for a guy named "Brown" without seeing four years of droning speeches and lukewarm leadership flash before their eyes. And, that's not Brownback's fault. He could be as dynamic as they come, but he's gonna have to go a bit farther toward proving it to overcome a name like "Brownback." Hey, it's politics. Voting decisions are often made on silly, unfair things, but the fact that they're silly and unfair doesn't mean they stop mattering.

Or, maybe it's just me.