While the 2008 elections are far off on the horizon, the political pundits, experts and soothsayers are already scrutinizing the chances of the potential candidates to achieve the White House in two years.

With that in mind, I decided to break down what type of presidential candidate could win the energetic support of the evangelical vote, which is a significant bloc that has greatly figured in many elections since the 1970s. In my opinion, no Republican candidate can win the primaries and the general election without that energetic support. (By the way, evangelical churches across the nation will be conducting legal voter registration drives and alerting members about the candidates, just as we do every four years.)

First, any presidential candidate who wishes to secure the evangelical vote, which is essential to victory for a Republican, must be a social and fiscal conservative. That’s a given. While the mushy middle of the Republican Party will want a candidate to be nebulous on issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and religious freedom, no Republican candidate can survive the primaries who is afraid of taking a stand on these critical social issues.

Fiscally, evangelicals will be looking for a president who will intrepidly seek to rein in the out-of-control federal spending. We also seek after a leader who will unite government with the private sector and religious institutions in mending the American family, which is being torn to shreds.

And we will not accept a candidate who is soft on the war on terror, whether here at home (the Patriot Act, domestic surveillance, etc.) or in Iraq, or wherever.

In a brilliant editorial titled “Point of No Return?” Thomas Sowell this week noted how terrorists want to “inflict the maximum pain and psychic anguish on their victims before killing them.” I’m afraid many of our leaders conveniently forget this fact, seeking to adopt politically correct policies to appease terrorists, as if these bloodthirsty people are rational and levelheaded individuals. That’s a losing formula for our nation. Evangelicals will cut no slack where the war on terror is concerned.

These credentials just described above constitute the irreducible minimum.

But there are two other burning issues that will probably decide the 2008 election. Those two issues are immigration and energy independence.

We must get tough on illegal immigration and begin enforcing present laws throughout our nation. I agree with Newt Gingrich that American cities failing to enforce immigration laws should have their federal funding cut off. Period.

The construction of a 2,000-mile fence (which some estimate will cost $10 billion) across our southwest border, from San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico, guarded by enough of America’s finest to stop the endless flow of scores of thousands of illegal aliens into this nation, must be the absolute commitment of our next champion. The bleeding must be stopped immediately.

Further, all illegal aliens who are convicted felons must be deported as a beginning. The remaining illegal aliens must be put into a lawful naturalization program with a reasonable time limit to learn English, meet the long-standing standards every legal immigrant has always met, pay taxes on all income (which they should be allowed to continue earning) and finally take the oath.

Those who do not successfully conform to this required process in the allotted time should then be deported. If the next president is to preserve the America we have enjoyed for 230 years, he or she must have the courage to practice tough love on this issue. Every American president and Congress, until recent years, has had that courage.

Returning to adherence to our long-standing immigration laws is not an unreasonable demand. I realize I will be criticized by many for making this statement, but I am convinced we must halt the daily torrent of illegal immigrants who almost effortlessly enter our nation. I know that many of these people are simply seeking a better life, but countless numbers of criminals are entering our nation. Plus, contagious diseases that were virtually wiped out in America are resurfacing, primarily because of the flood of illegal immigration. It must stop.

Legal worker visa programs can work again, but only if they are strictly enforced. I repeat, these naturalization programs should include rules requiring adherence to learning English and to prescribed preparation to become citizens, and the program should not promise automatic citizenship.

And here is that second burning issue. I believe our nation can become virtually energy-independent, in terms of oil production. Our coastlines are bursting with crude oil as are other vast oil fields within our American borders. But a handful of environmental alarmists have convinced many lawmakers to pretend the oil is not there. I want to preserve the beauty of our nation as much as anyone, but I also think we need to utilize our God-given resources and thus liberate the U.S. from dependence on many nations who hate us (and Israel) and, at the same time, we can lower the consumer gas and oil prices to grass-roots Americans. By becoming energy-independent, we bolster our national security interests and, simultaneously, we alleviate the present economic burdens that are affecting everyone in this nation. Gasoline for $1 per gallon again sounds pretty good to me.

So that’s my wish list for a presidential candidate in 2008. I believe an energized evangelical electorate, in tandem with millions of other Americans, will put the candidate I have described above into the Oval Office by a landslide. I’ll be praying that they do.

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