SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush may have low approval ratings overall, but he can still bring a crowd of Southern Baptists to their feet.
Conservative white evangelical Protestants remain his most loyal base -- a point driven home on Wednesday when he made a televised address to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio and received multiple standing ovations.
The ovations by the roughly 8,000 delegates in attendance stood in sharp contrast to his overall approval ratings which are consistently in the low- to mid-30 percent range in the face of the unpopular Iraq war.
“I ... appreciate the fact that Southern Baptists are supporting our brave men and women in uniform,” Bush said, one of several remarks that drew thunderous applause.
Evangelical Christians remain among the staunchest backers of the war in Iraq though polls have shown even their support has flagged as the conflict has dragged on.
They are also steadfastly opposed to abortion and clapped enthusiastically and shouted “Amen!” when Bush talked about building a “culture of life” -- code language for limiting or halting abortions.
“Southern Baptists are committed to building a culture of life and my administration shares that great goal,” Bush said, noting that he refused to fund programs overseas that supported or performed abortions.
Southern Baptists embrace Bush, a Texan and devout Christian, as one of their own.
“On what we call values issues he has been a consistent social conservative. We very much appreciate his sincerity and his consistency on issues that we consider to be very crucial,” said Gary Ledbetter, spokesman for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
The Southern Baptist Convention has 16 million members, making it America’s largest evangelical denomination.