McCain’s Second Chance with Evangelicals

mccain3.jpgThis all seems so eight years ago. A folksy Southern evangelical wins Iowa only to be stopped in his tracks by maverick John McCain. But will what happens next in the Republican presidential race be a replay of 2000? Will the Christian Right stop McCain cold in South Carolina? God-o-Meter doubts it.
Let’s examine the evidence: 1. As opposed to denouncing the Christian Right as “agents of intolerance,” as he did in 2000, McCain is enthusiastically reaching out the movement. The effort has been both rhetorical and organizational. Formerly reticent in speaking about his own religious faith and the influence of faith on politics, McCain told Beliefnet last fall that he is talking to his pastor about undergoing a full-immersion Baptism and that he prefers a president “who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith.” After Mike Huckabee came out with a Christmastime TV ad that some said featured cross imagery, McCain released an ad that discussed what the cross means to him.
Organizationally, McCain has sought the counsel of ex-presidential candidate Sam Brownback in beefing up evangelical-oriented support groups like Iowans of Faith for McCain and seeking meetings with evangelical political leaders.
2. McCain has launched a “truth squad” in South Carolina to smack down potentially ruinous attacks as they surface. Rumors spread by George W. Bush supporters about McCain in South Carolina–including that he had fathered an illegitimate child–hit him especially hard among “values voters.”
3. McCain got just as many evangelical votes in New Hampshire as Mike Huckabee. Each got 28-percent, with Mitt Romney snagging 27-percent. Aides to Huckabee’s Republican rivals note that while Huckabee had a full year to bond with Iowa evangelicals, he won’t have the same luxury in South Carolina or other early primary states.
Does this mean John McCain will have an easy time in the Palmetto State? No. But for McCain, what happens next won’t be a replay of 2000.


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Chris Inwien

posted January 9, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Senator McCain’s willingness to appear prominently with Pastor John Hagee in South Carolina is unfortunate. Hagee has been identified for years as an anti-Catholic bigot by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. McCain knows this, for sure.
Ah — but South Carolina’s Catholic population is only three percent, so who cares, right? Well, for my money, that makes McCain’s willful embrace of bigotry all the more calculated. Prolifers now have to think twice, since Mccain has a good prolife record , and this act of political opportunism (may we call it desperation?) should be condemned and all ties to this squalid figure cut off.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Why would evangelicals vote for McCain? Can you say gang of 14? The judicial nominating litmus test filabuster bravo sierra by the democrats was in reach of being ended once and for all, but noooo. Mr “Save the Senate” had to step in and make sure nothing would be clearly decided for at least another generation now.
A pox on McCain

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posted January 9, 2008 at 3:53 pm

“Why would evangelicals vote for McCain? Can you say gang of 14? The judicial nominating litmus test filibuster bravo sierra by the democrats was in reach of being ended once and for all, but noooo. Mr “Save the Senate” had to step in and make sure nothing would be clearly decided for at least another generation now.”
Now that’s just so NOT TRUE. It appears to have escaped your notice that the Senate has been in the hands of the Democrats since 2006, and all indications point to even more Republican losses in 2008. You lament a few dubious short-term gains, and ignore all the long-term pain McCain has now avoided. Fair is fair.
McCain’s ‘Gang of 14′ is likely to be the very thing that saves Republican behinds as control of the Senate slips further away in the near future. His prevention of a rule change to allow a ‘bare’ majority to move legislation forward will be very much appreciated, very soon by all those who now decry him. When it takes 60 votes to succeed and the Democrats can’t get them because 42 Republicans stand together, John McCain will be the reason people like Harry Reid become increasingly deranged.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 3:57 pm

I will be forever grateful to John McCain for his leadership in the Gang of 14. At the time, not many realized that the real possibility existed whereby Democrats would be able to hold the Presidency and a slim majority of the Senate to pack the courts. Such foresight should be applauded. I would also like to point to great results of this coalition: John Roberts and Sam Alito on the Supreme Court.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 4:02 pm

“McCain’s ‘Gang of 14′ is likely to be the very thing that saves Republican behinds as control of the Senate slips further away in the near future.”
No it won’t. That’s naive. Chairman is exactly right. McCain’s angry about 2000 & has been deliberately poking his fingers in conservatives’ eyes ever since. Gang of 14, Gitmo, Global warming, campaign finance “reform,” amnesty, torture, Abu Gharib…the jits just never stop coming with this guy. A Democrat posing as a Republican. He’s an unmitigated disaster.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 4:04 pm

“jits” should be “hits”
Gang of 14 had nothing to do with confirming Roberts or Alito.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 4:06 pm

McCain’s problems in SC are more complicated than they were in 2000.
While he appeals to the MSM and many Northeastern moderates and independents, most Southern conservatives cannot abide with his stands on immigration, taxes, campaign finance reform and other issues.
The race in SC (including among values conservatives) will be between the staid, uninspiring but consistently reliable Fred Thompson and the smooth, energetic, likeable, but less conservatively orthodox Gov. Huckabee.
Huck will likely win the hard-core evangelical vote (except for a few bitter SBC conservatives who apparently still hold it against him that Huck was the “moderate” candidate for President of the Arkansas Baptist Convention back in the early ’90s.) McCain may poach some of the less-devout moderate evangelicals, but he’s not competitive in the evangelical mainstream.

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Tim McCarthy

posted January 9, 2008 at 4:27 pm

“McCain’s angry about 2000 & has been deliberately poking his fingers in conservatives’ eyes ever since.”
Or maybe he’s just doing what he thinks is right. I know that’s an unusual idea to many Party apparatchiks and fellow travelers, but there it is.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 4:32 pm

McCain’s problem in SC in 2000 stemmed from his endorsement of a homosexual for Mayor in Tempe AZ. SC evangelical conservatives got wind of it and even though he had a very evangelical conservative running his campaign there, Bush became more attractive to them.
McCain’s response to that is what is hurting him today. His vitriolic attack against evangelicals at that time still rings. Most evangelical conservatives are also traditional republican conservatives and have real concerns about Huckabee. McCain has a chance to win many evangelical votes but it seems like his vindictive nature and that of those around him will not allow him to mend fences with fundamentalists and evangelicals in SC.
The real question is whether McCain and those running his campaign will allow his bitterness over 2000 in SC keep him from obtaining a huge block of support that could in the end gain him the presidency.
Oh, and in response to the comment about holding it against Huckabee for being the moderate candidate for SBC president. I believe that is hogwash. Those that aren’t supporting him are backing Romney. Its about Huckabee’s conservative credentials on issues other than social issues.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 4:42 pm

McCain has a chance to win evangelical votes. His rating is 95% pro-life . He was one of the first public supporters of the AZ pro-marriage ballot proposition. He is the most electable national candidate (and smart evangelicals know that). There is no clear evangelical position on immigration and so that does not hurt him.
His only problem is that it is really hard to vote for a person who you believe, in your heart of hearts, hates your guts. Over the last 8 years, McCain has managed to convince most evangelicals that he intensely hates them. His public comments, his treatment of evangelicals by his staff in public and in private make it clear that this is the case.
He could fix this easily.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 4:48 pm

As an enthusiastic McCainiac, I’m not terribly thrilled with him getting re-baptised for an election. I also haven’t seen his “What the cross means to me” video, but I am hoping it means the propitiation of God’s just wrath against pennitant sinners.
Regardless, at least he hasn’t shanghaied God’s holy order of worship to have election rallys like Obama and Huckabee. Even if he doesn’t believe the gospel, I’m with Martin Luther preferring a “Wise turk” over a “Foolish Christian”.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 4:56 pm

I think John McCain is a better candidate now than he was in 2000. And at this point in the race, I think he’s favored to win the GOP nomination.

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posted January 9, 2008 at 5:07 pm

I am a southern evangelical voter and I am for McCain.
I do not agree with him on every issue but I very much respect the fact that his “straight talk” is not just another political ploy. I know where he stands even when he is standing on the opposite side of an issue from me. That is extremely rare in today’s political climate.
Most importantly, on the issues that I care most about he is very solidly standing on the same ground that I am. With regard to Abortion, The Iraq War and the War on Terrorism McCain is solidly conservative. There is not a stronger potential commander in chief in this field of candidates and he has pledged to appoint strict constructionist to the Supreme Court.
After much deliberation, I can very comfortably support John McCain for President

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posted January 9, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Interesting comments here. I’m disappointed but I guess not surprised that a bunch of fundamentalists would hold it against a person for supporting a homosexual for mayor. I presume he thought the person was best for the job – I doubt he went looking for a homosexual to support. These peoples’ obsessions could once again cause the country great harm.
To me, McCain’s weakness is his pandering. He’s clearly now pandering to the religious right when earlier he saw and commented on the problem it has caused us and the Republican party. Probably worse in the last presidential election he pandered to his party by actively campaigning for George Bush. Surely he knew, better than most people, how poor a president Bush had been and how much his presidency was hurting America, yet whenever Bush called McCain trotted over and licked his ankle in public (i.e. campaigned for him). Now he’s got to distance himself from mistakes this administration has made; how does he do that when he helped elect him knowing full well the kinds of mistakes he was making and would continue making?

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posted January 9, 2008 at 6:37 pm

“Gang of 14 had nothing to do with confirming Roberts or Alito.”
Not blocking future Supreme Court appointees was an essential feature of the agreement of the Gang of 14. Keep in mind that all Democratic members of this group assisted in invoking cloture of the Alito nomination at a time when the President was very unpopular due to Hurricane Katrina. They kept up their end of the bargain. Two Circuit Court seats in exchange for two Supreme Court seats sounds fine to me, and leaves open the possibility to block future hazardous Democratic nominees.

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posted January 10, 2008 at 1:16 am

Coming from the perspective of a spiritualist and New Ager in Britain (and an Orator at London’s famed Speakers’ Corner) I find it saddening that voters would apparently prefer someone like John McCain over the real-deal Mike Huckabee.
I say ‘apparently’ because there is evidence (which can be read at that the New Hampshire primary was not altogether fair, particularly against a real embodiment of true change, the marginalised Republican (who barely mentions his faith) Ron Paul.
A once-great Republic would do well to return to its Constitution and Bill of Rights, which a spirit guide rightly described as “two of the finest documents ever devised by the mind of Man”.
I stayed up and listened to all the concession and acceptance speeches. Barack Obama impressed the most.
If it were possible, Christ Jesus would say to YOU ~ “There are no ‘enemies’, dear brother… only difficulties to Love.”
(Christ Diana nods…)

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posted January 10, 2008 at 10:49 am

McCain once said that the Religous Right was dangerous to America and to the Republican party, now he caters to them. I too once admired McCain for not towing the parting line and for his straight talk, now I consider him just another politician. Though I do think he’s the best among the Republican candidates.

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posted January 10, 2008 at 10:58 pm

I’m a strong John McCain supporter. I agree with him on all the issues and I think he oozes leadership and experience. He’s pro-life and against gay marriage, which is all a social conservative could ask for.

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teresa yeisley

posted January 11, 2008 at 4:00 am

Pandering–I think not. He is just mending fences. What he said back then was true, as in all groups you have your “radical” elements. I think the hard “Far Right” like Fawell and Robertson are the Rosie O’Donnels of the Republicans. The only person that will be a truly good president is one who will be able to see BOTH sides of an argument, position, or problem. I think it is bigotted and hypocritical to hold it against someone because they are gay. I don’t believe in gay marriage, or as boy scout leaders (more becuase it would just cause them grief and controversy),but they deserve to be treated as citizens with rights.
As for Bush being a terrible president, the truth will come out in the history books of the future. We are on good terms with more countries now, than when Clinton was president. You never saw the President of France be our “friend” back then…Oh, and have you noticed we are “winning” the “unwinable” war…? Notice no good press on that one!

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posted January 11, 2008 at 4:27 am

Is it really pandering when one is asked what he thinks about thus and such a topic on religion and he answers the question? The religious right can vote for whomever they choose, even the extremely racist Ron Paul. But, if John McCain get the nomination and they choose to support Senator Obama or Senator Clinton or even just stay home they will not be serving their “cause”. The religious right is organized and vocal. If it weren’t no one would have to give it the time of day because it makes up such a small minority. As a Christian I am weary of having to defend my faith against the out spoken right. If they are truly pro-life why don’t we hear them crying out for the millions who die of starvation every year and the thousands slaughtered in Darfur. God loves them too after all. You know how we resent the wealthiest Americans and think they should have to pay more taxes, etc. Guess what–that’s how the rest of the world feels toward all Americans. We need to get a bigger picture of the world. We need to educate ourselves. I just watched a video that asked people on the street questions about the world and was embarrassed by our ignorance. Obviously they edit it to make it look the worst it can look but when a person is ask what religion a Budhist monk is and can’t come up with the answer (which is Budhist by the way) we have a serious problem. I am hoping John McCain or Mike Huckabee can help us get the BIG picture.

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