Would you elect a man president of the United States who was afraid of tough questioning from Phyllis Schlafly or Star Parker?

Would you consider voting for a man who had better things to do than to talk to an audience of millions concerned about the assault on family values?

What would you say to front-running GOP presidential candidates who take your vote for granted because they think you have nowhere to go?

These are some of the questions you should be pondering today as we get ready for a Republican presidential debate next Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – a debate in which four major contenders will be conspicuously absent.

They are: Willard “Mitt” Romney, Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain and Fred Thompson.

I, for one, am particularly disappointed in Thompson, who has not yet participated in a single GOP debate. This one would have been his first opportunity since officially announcing his candidacy. He could have changed all the dynamics. He could have made this debate the biggest national news story of the day. He could have forced others to join the debate. But, he, too, had better things to do.

While I wasn’t going to vote for Romney or Giuliani or McCain under any circumstances, I would have considered voting for Thompson vs. Hillary. I’m not so sure anymore.

Isn’t it amazing how scheduling conflicts and other business kept all four of these so-called front-runners from talking directly to people like Donald Wildmon and James Dobson and Paul Weyrich and Rick Scarborough?

Isn’t it amazing they all have more important things to do to get elected president than to meet face to face with Christian and Jewish leaders who represent millions and millions of votes?

I tell you it is gut-wrenching fear that kept them away.

They are scared to death of the questions. They’re scared to death they won’t have a good answer. They’re scared to death they might say something they will live to regret.

So, all four of the “front-runners” have decided “to play it safe.”

Playing it safe means not showing up, making excuses for their absence and hoping they really can take all those values voters for granted. Surely, they will not vote for Hillary! Surely, they won’t sit on their hands.

Well, maybe they won’t have to stay home in November 2008. There’s still more than a year left before that election. There’s still a lot of time before the Republican convention. There’s still quite a bit of time left before the first primary vote.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s still time for another front-runner to emerge from the pack – perhaps one of the candidates not afraid of Phyllis Schlafly and Star Parker.

Personally, for me, Schlafly and Parker sounds like a pretty good ticket to me.

I want to commend those candidates who weren’t afraid to show up at the presidential debate I will be moderating next Monday. I wish them all well. In fact, I wish them very, very well. Our nation needs one of them – at least – to rise to the occasion and snatch this nomination away from the pretenders to the throne.

Meanwhile, I have a message for the scaredy cats who aren’t showing up next Monday. You know the old saying: We’ll remember in November – November 2008, that is.

I’m through with supporting the lesser of two evils.

It just doesn’t make any difference in the long run.

If we can’t see that after two terms of George W. Bush, then we’ll never be able to see it.

Related special offers:

“Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton”

“I’ve Always Been a Yankees Fan: Hillary Clinton in Her Own Words”

“Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause”

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.