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Special Report

Contenders for GOP Presidential Nomination Vie For Support of Rar-Right Voters At Washington Gathering

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from October 21, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the last national gathering of still undecided grass roots social conservatives before the Republican presidential candidates, it was clear pro choice GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani has some work to do.

SHARON SLATER, SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE: Rudy would be a great candidate if he was pro-life. But for most of us here that is an issue that we can't overcome. It is a huge handicap for him.

BEN GRACE, SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE: I would not vote for him at all. No, I wouldn't.

GARRETT: And what happens if down the road he becomes the Republican nominee? What do you do then?

GRACE: Move to a third world country. No.

GARRETT: Giuliani will address the conference Saturday, just before results of the conference's much anticipated straw poll are announced. Though a new poll shows Giuliani runs well among self-identified evangelical Christians, his pro-choice record may be a deal-breaker.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL PRESIDENT: I cannot under any circumstances see a majority of pro-life social conservatives supporting and advancing a pro-abortion candidate.

GARRETT: Many social conservatives came to politics and eventually the GOP because of its pro-life position. A Giuliani nomination, Perkins said, would sever GOP ties to so-called values voters.

PERKINS: We came to the party because the party said it was pro-life. The life issue is what brought us in to this process. If the Republican party retreats, and leaves the high ground of defending the unborn, we are not going.

GARRETT: Is this then an opening for Mitt Romney, now leading in Iowa and New Hampshire? It could be, but Romney's relatively recent pro-life conversion and advocacy of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage stikes some as expedient.

PERKINS: He is having to let people know where he stands on the issues today, and bring them to a point of confidence that these are, in fact, genuine positions, because there is a break with his past.

GARRETT: Fred Thompson, long considered the best alternative for social conservatives, failed to wow the crowd. But he made some pro-life inroads when he vowed to veto any bill advancing abortion rights.

FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president of the United States, no legislation will pass my desk that funds or supports this procedure without my veto.

GARRETT: Arizona's John McCain, who has long had an uneasy relationship with social conservatives said he would offer no, quote, "cheap promises". He described himself as a Christian whose faith has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with surviving five and a half years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had to have faith in something greater than myself, not only to survive, but to survive with my self-respect intact. Faith in my comrades, faith in my country, and faith in my god.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GARRETT: There are, of course, crucial other Republicans constituencies, but none so large, none so likely to participate in big numbers in primaries and caucuses and none still up for grabs. And if there was a consensus today, it is that three candidates would emerge with some support from social conservatives, but the most would likely go to Mitt Romney.

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