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Candidates Court Family Values Vote

Will evangelicals tip the scales in the presidential race?
1996This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

With the presidential election entering its final chapter, the campaigns of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole are angling for the family-values vote while approaching the profamily agenda from opposite sides of the stream.

The adoption of pro-family campaign themes by both candidates comes on the heels of voter analysis that the most important deciding factor in the November election may be the conservative evangelical Christian vote, which represents up to 40 percent of registered voters.

"Some believe the Religious Right peaked in 1980, but in every election since then they have always had 3 or 4 percent more of the electorate," says William C. Martin, author of the just released With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. "The Religious Right is the single most important faction in the Republican party, perhaps in American politics. Without the Religious Right, Bob Dole doesn't stand a chance."

In any event, Dole's chances may be very slim. In spite of a significant postconvention bounce in national opinion polls for Dole, Clinton has remained ahead by a significant margin.

In addition, doubts linger as to whether the Christian Coalition, the leading edge of the Religious Right, can deliver the conservative Christian vote for Dole. Voters who say they are part of the Religious Right split 41 percent for Clinton, 40 percent for Dole, according to a July poll by the Barna Research Group.

WHICH BRIDGE? After Dole's convention speech in August in which he aspired to be a "bridge" to better times in the past, Clinton co-opted that metaphor by casting his candidacy as a "bridge to the twenty-first century."

Yet, despite the surface similarities of campaign themes and rhetoric, there are significant differences between ...

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