McCain's Evangelical Problem


Late last week, Mark DeMoss, arguably “the most prominent public relations executive in the evangelical world,” raised a few eyebrows when he told BeliefNet that many evangelicals have a “fascination with Barack Obama.” DeMoss concluded, “…I will not be surprised if he gets one third of the evangelical vote. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 40 percent.”



And what about the Republican nominee? BeliefNet asked, “How is John McCain doing among evangelicals, a crucial Republican constituency?” DeMoss said from his perspective, no one in the evangelical community is really talking about McCain at all.


Following up, it appears some evangelicals are talking about McCain, but the campaign probably wouldn’t care for what they’re saying. Bob Novak wrote in his latest column about McCain’s “evangelical problem,” as evidenced by McCain’s “estranged” relationship with James Dobson, and the campaign’s clumsy handling of the John Hagee blunder.



And the NYT notes today just how challenging it is to resolve this problem.

[Activists’] hesitation illustrates what remains one of Mr. McCain’s biggest challenges as he faces a general election contest with Senator Barack Obama: a continued wariness toward him among evangelicals and other Christian conservatives, a critical voting bloc for Republicans that could stay home in the fall or at least be decidedly unenthusiastic in their efforts to get out the vote.


To address this, Mr. McCain’s campaign has been ramping up its outreach to evangelicals over the last month, preparing a budget and a strategic plan for turning them out in 18 battleground states this fall.


The campaign has been peppering over 600 socially conservative grass-roots and national leaders with regular e-mail messages — highlighting, for example, Mr. McCain’s statement criticizing a May 15 decision by the California Supreme Court overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, or his recent speech on his judicial philosophy. It has also held briefings for small groups of conservative leaders before key speeches. Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s senior advisers, recently sat down with a dozen prominent evangelical leaders in Washington, where he emphasized, among other things, Mr. McCain’s consistent anti-abortion voting record.

So, is the outreach working? Not so much.

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