The coming social conservative presidential showdown

Ted Cruz speaks to conservative activists in Washington, DC on 26 September. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Texas Senator Ted Cruz is courting evangelical voters

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It has become an accepted political truth that if the evangelical wing of the Republican Party quickly and decisively rallies behind one candidate for their party's presidential nomination, they could push him to victory.

Every four years, however, that doesn't seem to happen. Instead Christian conservatives divide their loyalties, opening the way for the establishment pick to triumph - Mitt Romney in 2012, John McCain in 2008, Bob Dole in 1996 and George HW Bush in 1988.

George W Bush in 2000 had some evangelical support, but he was a heavy establishment favourite. Ronald Reagan in 1980 also had grass-roots evangelical credentials, but the once-divorced former actor wasn't a perfect match for that characterisation, either.

Will 2016 be any different? With political wags on both sides of the political divide declaring the culture war to be all but won by social liberals, the stakes for conservatives seem all the more pronounced. The question, however, is whether this sense of urgency will be reflected at the primary ballot box.

The National Journal's Tim Alberta and Shane Goldmacher talk to evangelical Republicans, who tell them this time will be different.

They identify Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Governor (and presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee as the two most likely contenders for the social conservative backing and observe that evangelicals are eager to winnow the field.

"In recent months, allies of both men have eyed one another as mutual threats in the quest to win the evangelical endorsement - and have even launched early efforts to undermine the other," they write. "Cruz allies have suggested that conservatives won't be able to ignore Huckabee's questionable fiscal record; Huckabee's team has questioned Cruz's ability to connect with religious audiences."

They say that although there are other possibilities, such as former Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry, Mr Huckabee and Mr Cruz appear to be pulling away from the field.

Alberta and Goldmacher conclude:

"As evangelical leaders approach 2016 with unprecedented urgency and emphasis on co-ordination, it appears the decision to collectively endorse one person may come down to two very different candidates: Huckabee, the once-ran preacher with inimitable charm and religious bonafides; or Cruz, the fresh-faced agitator who refuses to compromise or play nice with his party's establishment."

Whether or not one of the two candidates captures the nomination, the 2016 primary process for Republicans is shaping up to be unusual in that there are no clear favourites. If there is a year when a social conservative could post some early wins and gather enough momentum to prevail, this could be it.


Presidential election is bad news - President Dilma Rousseff's narrow re-election in this week's runoff vote will be prompt accusations of fraud, writes Daniel Altman for Foreign Policy magazine, jeopardising the nation's political stability.

"When the incumbent wins by such a slim margin, it's easy to suspect that the result has been fixed," he says.

Almost half the country is vehemently against Ms Rousseff, he writes, and will not be inclined to co-operate with her second-term agenda.

"The question is whether the next four years will be acrimonious and unproductive or constructive and forward-looking," he writes. "History suggests the former."


An Israeli alliance? - India's recent announcement that it is purchasing $525m (£324m) in anti-tank missile systems from Israel is the latest evidence that the two nations are forging closer ties, writes Walter Russell Mead for the American Interest.

"Already, Israel is India's second biggest weapons supplier, and this deal is only tipping the scales further," he writes.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose Israel's missiles over ones offered by the US, which Mead speculates is part of a concerted strategy to avoid becoming too dependent on the "capricious hands of a Washington that imposes sanctions unfairly, at least in some cases".

Hong Kong

Democracy movement needs an endgame - It's time for the protesters who have taken to the streets in Hong Kong to find a way to end the standoff with authorities, writes former British Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten.

"A substantive and successful dialogue with the government would not require the protesters to call off their campaign for democracy; it would simply end the current phase of a campaign that eventually will succeed," he writes for Project Syndicate.

Areas for possible agreement, he argues, are the ground rules for legislative council elections in 2016 and the composition and voting rules of the election committee that chooses the Hong Kong chief executive.

"This would not be all that the Umbrella Movement has demanded, but it should encourage the protesters to reach a compromise without departing from their longer-term goal," he says.


In defence of an internet tax - The Hungarian government's attempts to tax internet usage have prompted widespread protests in that nation, writes Leonid Bershidsky, but "taxing information consumption is not such a crazy idea".

As more and more businesses, including telecommunications, banking and advertising, move to the internet, they should be forced by the government to pay for maintaining that technological infrastructure, he says.

In addition, he writes, taxing internet consumption would likely prompt development of "decentralised, mesh-based communication" like FireChat, which is harder to regulate and spreads the costs of infrastructure much more broadly.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

International commentators react to the continued withdrawal of US and British troops from Afghanistan.

"The Afghan government warmly welcomes the withdrawal of the foreign troops from Helmand and the national forces are ready to fill their gap there ... Today we strongly believe that security in the province will be maintained despite the withdrawal and that it would lead to a considerable reduction in poppy cultivation." - Editorial in Afghanistan's state-run Hewad.

"The only guarantee of peace in the region is for all foreign forces to unconditionally withdraw from Afghanistan. The US and its allies should take this seriously." - Editorial in Pakistan's Islam.

"The pull-out of the coalition forces from Afghanistan is long overdue. The longer they stay there the more questions are raised about their strategic mission... Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have not been eliminated, they are still strong and drug exports have also soared." - Sergey Strokan in Russia's Kommersant. ‎

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