Faith-Based Challenges Show a New Rift in the GOP

Conservative faith activists are poised to support challengers over establishment Republicans.

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In Utah, meanwhile, a longtime "pro-family" activist endorsed by Christian right icon Phyllis Schlafly is among the conservatives running against Republican Sen. Bob Bennett. Cherilyn Eagar says her state's tradition of picking nominees by convention makes it easier for her to benefit from the support of activists, including religious conservatives. "Bennett's version of national healthcare had a provision requiring insurance companies to supply abortions," she says. "I find that reprehensible in a state that is highly pro-life."

Beyond confronting the Republican establishment, religious activists point out that they helped deliver last week's Republican gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey. In Virginia, white evangelicals supplied nearly half of Governor-elect Bob McDonnell's votes. New Jersey Governor-elect Chris Christie is the first antiabortion chief executive to be elected in the state in at least 25 years. He survived a conservative primary opponent and went on to get Family Research Council Action's endorsement, a reminder that not every intraparty fight has to end like the one in New York's 23rd did.

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  • Corrected on 12/21/09: An earlier version of this article misstated California U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina's abortion position. She opposes abortion rights.