Two pro-choice names floated as potential vice-president picks for presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain have caused a lot of grumbling among conservatives nationwide, but some of the most ardently pro-life members of the delegation representing New Jersey at next month's Republican National Convention were circumspect on the prospects.
While McCain has pledged to run a "pro-life administration" if elected, his campaign has floated trial balloons about U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Thomas Ridge as possible Veep picks, both of whom are pro-choice.
While some pro-life delegation members would prefer to see a fully anti-abortion ticket, none were committed to casting a protest vote against a pro-choice McCain pick. Still, some of them cautiously suggested that McCain would be wise not to alienate the socially conservative wing of the party, including the evangelical voters who he's had trouble courting in the past.
"I don't from a tactical standpoint see the gain other than maybe he's trying to reach moderate Democrat voters and take them from Barack by putting Lieberman there," said Assemblywoman Allison Littell McHose (R-Franklin), a delegate who sits on the convention's platform committee. "But I think when you have a Republican base that would probably not traditionally vote for a guy like Lieberman, I don't know why McCain would need to do that."
McHose, however, didn't say whether she would cast a vote against Lieberman.
Michael Donohue, a pro-life delegate from Cape May County, said that he hadn't thought about whether he would protest a pro-choice selection, but took McCain at his word that he will promote pro-life causes.
"Joe Lieberman has been a strong supporter of John McCain. You can't take anything away from the level of support he's given to the Senator," he said. "But for me personally, I would expect that John McCain would privately have that conversation with Joe Lieberman, and I would trust the Senator to follow through on his word of having a pro-life administration."
The most ringing endorsement for Lieberman came from former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino, who has filled the delegate spot left open when State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio after he decided not to attend the convention. While pro-life, Inglesino thinks that Lieberman's appeal to some traditionally Democratic voters outweighs his pro-choice votes and other stances more in-line with the Democratic Party.
"I'm one of those people who is pro-life and thinks that Joe Lieberman would make a terrific vice-presidential selection by John McCain, particularly here in New Jersey, where there's a large Jewish population, and a lot of Jewish and non-Jewish voters have a lot of uneasiness about Obama's commitment to Israel," he said.
Inglesino said that he fears Islamic extremist terrorists will step up attacks on Israel at the beginning of an Obama presidency to test his resolve.
"My greatest fear from a national security standpoint is that the terrorists are going to test Barack Obama's commitment to Israel. And I don't think he'll treat Israel as the 51st state," he said. "I think Sen. Lieberman can make that point with great credibility, with great conviction and with great clarity. My view is that is one of the most — if not the most important campaign issue."
Morris County Freeholder John Murphy, a former gubernatorial candidate who's considering another run for the office, disagreed with that assessment. He said that, while a ticket with Lieberman would attract some traditionally Democratic voters, it wouldn't be enough to offset damage that it would cause with the party's base.
Murphy, who's also pro-life, said that he thinks Mitt Romney – the former Massachusetts governor who converted from a pro-choice to a pro-life view – would be the best pick. If he had to choose between the two pro-choice possibilities, he'd go with Ridge, since Lieberman sides with Democrats on most issues.
Still, even if the pick was Lieberman, Murphy said that he would support the ticket.
"I'm certainly pleased that John McCain is pro-life and that's why I'm supporting him. I'm not going to not ratify or support a ticket if it did include someone who was, by their own profession, pro-choice," he said.
Cape May County Republican Chairman David Von Savage, one of the most conservative county chairs, said that there's no need to speculate.
"It's not going to be a pro-choice candidate. In my view it's going to be a pro-life vice presidential nominee," said Von Savage, who is not a delegate.