Catholic candidate looks at presidential run in 2008

.- As Republicans and Democrats are still considering what to make of the “Catholic vote” during 2006’s midterm elections, preparations are already gearing up for the 2008 presidential race.  And as talk swirls about possible presidential runs by such well known politicians as Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain, a Catholic politician appears ready to throw his hat in the ring.

Senator Sam Brownback, a pro-life Republican Senator from the State of Kansas announced yesterday that, “after much prayerful consideration,” he will consider seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency.

Brownback, who has made a name for himself in conservative circles since he was elected a U.S. Senator in 1996, has been a fervent supporter of “family values” and creating a “culture of life” in the United States.

In the letter announcing his candidacy consideration, Brownback said he is running in order to “spread hope and ideas.”  

The senator also noted a few of his platform concepts.  In addition to mentioning life issues and the protection of marriage, Brownback notes some problems he would address as president. “The federal government wastes and spends too much. We lack compassionate yet practical programs to help the poor here and around the world. We need energy independence and alternative, clean-burning, domestic-grown fuels. The scourge of cancer has killed too many and must be stopped. We need term limits for judges and members of Congress like we have for the President. We need a flat tax instead of the dreadful, incomprehensible tax code we now have,” Brownback says, adding, “and we need humility.”

The Senator’s approach to “compassionate conservatism” may be what many Catholic voters are looking for.  While many more Catholics had been voting for Republican candidates in recent years - due to their strong pro-life agenda - a shift of some Catholic voters back to Democratic candidates was seen in this year’s midterm elections.

Many, including Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, President of Human Life International, think that Catholic voters left their Republican candidates as those candidates became weak on abortion and family matters.  “The most vulnerable seats in both houses were those held by politicians who had abandoned the pro-life and the pro-marriage principles that first brought them to power,” said Fr. Euteneuer shortly after the election.

Now, political pundits are projecting Sen. Brownback as the strongest conservative Republican candidate in the race.  

Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, told Washington D.C.’s “The Hill” that the other leading candidates are lacking in several social areas.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been historically “pro-gay rights and pro-abortion,” McClusky said, and Arizona Senator John McCain has been only “moderately pro-life” and supported issues adamantly opposed by social conservatives, such as embryonic stem-cell research and fetal- tissue research.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who declared his support for abortion rights during an unsuccessful 1994 Senate race, has a “spotty record on life,” said McCluskey, who said Romney is now “certainly coming around on the issue, which we hope he will, and he has good people working for him.”

According to “the Hill,” McClusky said Brownback might be able to fill a conservative leadership void among top-tier candidates. But even if he does not win the nomination, Brownback could have a major impact on the Republican primary by defining the debate on abortion and other related “life” issues, he added.

Though he doesn’t address it in his letter Brownback has also weighed-in on another contentious issue, the Iraq war.  According to his website, the senator says that while he is “anxious” for U.S. troops to come home safely, he recognizes that, “even with the end of major combat operations, Iraq still faces an uncertain future.”

The United States, he continues, “must do all we can to help Iraq build the foundations of its new democracy. At the same time, we must understand that the key to Iraq’s future lies with individual Iraqi citizens.”

“I am very proud of the work our troops have performed since the end of major combat, but I am equally anxious for them to return home safely,” Brownback concludes.

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