Occasional Reports, Notes and Commentaries on the Road to the White House
Coalition Annual Gathering Draws GOP Hopefuls
by Eric M. Appleman
than 4,000 conservative Christians from every part of the country gathered
in Washington, DC on September 18 and 19, 1998 for the Christian Coalition's
eighth annual Road to Victory conference and strategy briefing.
Attendees heard from dozens of speakers, visited the exhibit hall, attended state caucuses and went to breakout sesions. Representatives from organizations such as Liberty University, the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, and American Christian Tours manned booths in the crowded exhibit hall. In addition to the main sessions, conference attendees could participate in breakout sessions on topics ranging from "Defunding the National Endowment for the Arts" to "The Tyranny of Judicial Activism" and in state meetings. With the release of the Starr report earlier in September, President Clinton's situation was a major topic of discussion, but people here had many other concerns on their mind as well: abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and prayer in schools to name a few.
Eight potential 2000 Republican presidential candidates addressed the conference: former Vice President Dan Quayle, Rep. John Kasich, Alan Keyes, Sen. John Ashcroft, Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, Sen. Bob Smith and Speaker Newt Gingrich. Some of these as-yet-undeclared candidates sought to further woo this important constituency by setting up booths in the exhibit hall, holding receptions, and making the rounds at the state caucuses. The Christian Coalition had even scheduled a presidential straw poll, but it was cancelled just days before the conference, ostensibly because of the release of the Starr report and the resulting tumult.
Donald Hodel, president of the Christian Coalition, noted that some attendees had told him they were unsettled by the amount of politicking going on at the conference. Hodel told the crowd that the attention given to them was not a problem; on the contrary, the politicking and media interest demonstrated their influence.
Ten years ago, in 1988, Pat Robertson ran for president. Although his campaign fell short, the Christian Coalition, which grew out of that bid, is a powerful force in GOP politics.