WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition, has sworn that the Religious Right would withdraw support from the Republican ticket in 1996 unless both candidates opposed abortion. Reed made his vow at the Conservative Political Action Conference, held just before nine Republican presidential hopefuls showed up to test the New Hampshire waters. So brazen was Reed's threat that it made the front page of The New York Times.
The February 10th speech was a departure from Reed's recent policy of keeping so-called moral issues on the back burner while "casting a wider net." Now, with claims of 1.5 million mostly Republican members, Reed thinks the Christian Coalition is in a position to set the ground rules for the Republican Party.
With the exception of Phil Gramm and Pat Buchanan, most of the candidates scoffed at Reed's suggestion. Buchanan and Gramm are staunchly anti-choice, with Gramm favoring a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Another Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, thinks the party should be pro-choice.
Reed vowed to mobilize the Coalition against the Republican Party if it nominated pro-choice candidates for either president or vice president. If the Republicans rebuff the Christian Coalition, it will have nowhere to go but to a third-party candidate.
Meanwhile, Reed made it clear that the Christian Coalition would see that Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia would not be reelected in 1996. There is speculation that Ralph Reed himself may be planning to run against Warner.