The Giuliani campaign also pointed to a recent Gallup poll indicating that Giuliani was essentially tied with former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson among Republicans who attend church weekly. That same poll indicated that, among those GOP voters who describe themselves as "born again or evangelical," more said Giuliani would be an acceptable GOP nominee — 69 percent — than said the same about any of his rivals.
Vice President Dick Cheney and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, addressed the larger Council for National Policy gathering.
The discontent of conservative Christian leaders with the current crop of Republican presidential front-runners has been apparent for months.
In May, Dobson wrote a column in which he said, "I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008. It is an irrevocable decision. If given a ... choice between him and Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, I will either cast my ballot for an also-ran, or, if worst comes to worst, not vote in a presidential election for the first time in my adult life. My conscience and my moral convictions will allow me to do nothing else."
Many thought Thompson's entry into the race would quell rumblings of a third-party challenge. But, in his short time on the campaign trail, Thompson has demonstrated a moderate temperament and an independent streak belying hype that he would be the answer to Dobson's prayers.
In September, The Associated Press obtained an e-mail Dobson sent, criticizing Thompson as "the candidate who is opposed to a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold" — the campaign-finance reform law — "won't talk at all about what he believes, and can't speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail ... He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent 'want to.' And yet, he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!"
Viguerie suggested the other two GOP front-runners, Romney and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are not faring much better among his colleagues.
"There is just zero — zero — interest in John McCain," he said. "There was some fairly strong opposition to Romney that I've detected lately, but it's still an open door. He could convince conservatives, but it's an uphill battle. He's still got work to do."
The issues he and his colleagues have with the Republican Party go far beyond abortion, Viguerie said.
"I was talking to one of the very, very top value voter leaders the other day," he recounted. "And he told me, 'I can't tell you how many times I called [former White House deputy chief of staff] Karl Rove at the White House and pleaded with him to give us a token appointment.' We're tired of being treated like a mistress. In so many private meetings, they assured us how much they love us and appreciate us. But then their attitude is: 'If you see me on the street, don't speak to me, and whatever you do, don't come to my club.'
"We have been used and abused by the Republican Party," he said. "So, maybe it's just time to never support another Republican establishment candidate, and support principled conservative candidates — win or lose."