Ashcroft Bails Out Of Presidential Race.

 
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Religious Right favorite John D. Ashcroft has shelved plans to run for president in 2000.

The Missouri Republican announced Jan. 5 that he will concentrate on running for reelection to his U.S. Senate seat instead. A hard-fought battle with Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan is expected.

Ashcroft's move disappointed his fan club in the Religious Right. The Missourian was rapidly becoming that movement's consensus candidate in the GOP presidential primary.

"I'm disappointed," Free Congress Foundation (FCF) leader Paul Weyrich told The Washington Post. "I have felt that if conservatives ever got together on a single candidate that we could definitely impact, if not outfight win, the nomination."

Others who seemed to be in Ashcroft's camp included major Religious Right figures such as TV preacher and Christian Coalition Chairman Pat Robertson, Council for National Policy founder Tim LaHaye, American Family Association President Donald Wildmon, homeschool advocate Michael Farris and Eagle Forum leader Phyllis Schlafly.

But the Religious Right's support was a decidedly mixed blessing for Ashcroft. Political observers said the Missouri senator needed to move toward the center to secure the GOP nomination and win the presidency. But his friends on the fight criticized every effort in that direction.

In a Nov. 30 speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Ashcroft emphasized economic and tax reduction issues with broad appeal and seemed to discount the Religious Right's social agenda.

"We must embrace the power of faith," he said, "but we must not confuse politics with piety. For me, may I say, it is against my religion to impose my religion."

This seemingly noncontroversial remark set off a firestorm on the right, with...

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