AFTER the 2004 elections, religious conservatives were riding high. Newly anointed by pundits as "values voters" -- a more flattering label than "religious right" -- they claimed credit for propelling George W. Bush to two terms in the White House. Even in wartime, they had managed to fixate the nation on their pet issues: opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research.
Now with the 2008 race taking shape, religious conservatives say they sense they have taken a tumble. Their issues are no longer at the forefront, and their leaders have failed so far to coalesce around a candidate, as they did around Mr. Bush and Ronald Reagan.