On the Politics Show, Sunday 03 February 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Ralph Reed, Former Head, Christian Coalition.
JON SOPEL: Ralph Reed, there was a very close aide of Tony Blair who said, We don't do God. It's rather different in the US, where I suspect there is a Christian vote and a powerful one at that.
RALPH REED: There is indeed. I think you could make the case that demographically and culturally, the United States is arguably the most religious nation in the world, with the possible exception of Israel and it definitely impacts our politics, always has. If you look at the last presidential election for example in 2004, the exit polls indicated that about one out of every four voters who went to the polls, said that religion and values and faith had the greatest impact on their voting decision and among those voters they voted 82% for George W Bush and only 16% for John Kerry.
It is arguably the largest single constituency in the electorate, larger than African Americans, larger than Hispanics, larger than the gay vote, larger than the feminist vote and either party ignores that vote to their peril, as we saw with John Kerry.
JON SOPEL: So what do you want your Christian colleagues to be thinking when they go to the polls for super Tuesday.
RALPH REED: You know, I want them to do what they've always done and that is to vote their values. I think that someone's belief system whether or not they believe in protecting innocent human life, honouring the institution of marriage, helping the poor, whatever their religious value or faith based value may be, vote the values and look for the candidates who line up closest to those values, regardless of what political party it may be.
JON SOPEL: The person that seems to have the wind in his sails at the moment in the Republican side is John McCain and he said that - he once described some Christian Republicans as agents of intolerance. Well, it's going to be hard for him to 82% of voters isn't it, if that's how he views them.
RALPH REED: Well again, it's hard to predict the outcome of an election that takes place in November and January. There's a lot of terrain to be covered. I mean you could just as easily say that if Hillary Clinton defeats Barack Obama, how in the world is she ever going to win the black vote. But the reality is that if Hillary Clinton does become the nominee and defeats Obama, they'll figure out a way to get their core voters on board and I think John McCain, if he's smart, and I believe he is, will make some efforts to do that.
He could chose a running mate that those folks view as an advocate of their view point. He could do that. There are things that he can say when he accepts the nomination that will say to those folks, hey, he understands we're important, he shares our values. There's one final thing you have to remember. No matter who the Republicans nominate, they're going to be running against either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and that is a very unifying force, I can assure you.
JON SOPEL: What do you mean a unifying force.
RALPH REED: Well, in politics, there is the positive influence of who you're for and then there's the negative influence of who you're against. And the intensity in the conservative faith community for ensuring that Hillary Clinton doesn't become President of the United States, is a highly motivating influence.
It's not enough by itself but I'm suggesting to you that if the Republicans can put together a unity ticket, that brings all elements of the Party together, and if John McCain will - if he will build a bridge to the conservative grass roots of the party, that combined with their antipathy for Clinton, I think makes victory more than possible.
JON SOPEL: Okay and is there antipathy then as well, towards there being a black African American standing.
RALPH REED: I don't think there's antipathy at all for anyone, based on gender or ethnicity or race or socio-economic background. I think there is definitely disagreement. I think it's a civil and an honest but a strong disagreement with the kinds of things that Obama is advocating. He's calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, which would clearly, I mean not even Gordon Brown is calling for that.
Even the Labour Party in Britain is saying, we're going to make sure that Iraq is stable, even as they opposed the policy. So this is a position that is irresponsible. It will lead to instability in Iraq, it will, without question, cause Iraq to be a safe haven for terrorists. If you look at some of the other things that Barrack Obama advocates, such as government run health care and higher taxes, these are things where there's a strong disagreement. Look, I think he's a very attractive and talented political figure but I'm not going to vote for somebody with whom I disagree that strongly on the issue.
JON SOPEL: Ralph Reed. Thank you very much indeed.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH RALPH REED
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The Politics Show Sunday 03 February 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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