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Christian Coalition Meeting Spotlights GOP Contenders

By Gene Randall/CNN

ATLANTA (Sep. 15) -- The meeting of the Christian Coalition in Atlanta over the past weekend proved a real draw for Republicans being discussed as possible presidential contenders in the year 2000.


In his address to the conference, Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson told his followers that it was time to clean house at the top in Washington. "We are going to have a pro-family conservative sitting in the White House, so help us God," he declared.

Enter the first contestant: first-term Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), who has already been making a well-orchestrated run for the GOP spotlight. "Janet and I seek your prayers in the months ahead as we consider the pursuit of the nation's highest office," he said.

Solid on the coalition's agenda, particularly its anti-abortion rights stand, Ashcroft impressed a lot of people here. "His sincerity; he has a moral compass," were qualities one person pointed out.


Steve Forbes, at odds with Christian Coalition leaders during his run for the Republican nomination in 1996, did well in Atlanta, especially when his audience discerned a tightening stand on abortion.

"Properly argued, I believe this issue can inspire our nation, not divide our nation. Remember life begins at conception and ends at natural death," Forbes said during his speech.

"His apparent change on the abortion issue scored a lot of points with me," said one coalition member.


House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-Ohio) talked about economic issues and focused on families. "We need to rebuild the family, we need to strengthen the family and we need to help the children in this country," he said.

"He represents, I believe, the heart of America and he does it with total sincerity," one member said.

Last year's GOP vice presidential candidate, Jack Kemp, made a surprise visit, though a tenuous political relationship with Robertson dating back to the Michigan Republican caucuses in 1988 probably hurts Kemp with this group.

Lamar Alexander failed to address moral issues in his speech and got little reaction.


And as usual, Alan Keyes delivered the most fiery rhetoric, and got a good response; fuel, perhaps, for a perennial presidential candidate.

Removed from White House politics, what could qualify as the weekend's most intriguing approach to the issue of marriage came from South Carolina Gov. David Beasley. "Studies will show that monogamous married couples to be the most sexually satisfied people in America," he said. "Amen to that. And it doesn't take a study to know that one."

Longtime Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed bid a formal farewell in Atlanta. Now a political consultant, he figures to be in high demand among Republicans in the years ahead, including almost anyone with a serious aim at the White House.

In Other News:

Monday Sept. 15, 1997

Weld Quits Nomination Fight
Christian Coalition Meeting Spotlights GOP Contenders
Clinton: Crack Down On Medicare Fraud
IRS To Audit Paula Jones
Lawmakers Consider Giving Themselves A Raise
AllPolitics E-Wire

E-mail From Washington:
Jones' Settlement Talks Set For Tuesday

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