royce.jpgGod-o-Meter just hung up with Shannon Royce, former executive director of the Arlington Group–a coalition of conservative Christian big wigs hell-bent on stopping gay marriage–and was surprised to learn that she had formally endorsed John McCain. Hardly a household name, Royce is nonetheless a very big deal in conservative Christian organizational circles, having served as chief lobbyist for the Southern Baptist Convention and, more recently, as grassroots outreach director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign.
Royce told God-o-Meter to go back to a February 11 email sent out by the McCain camp, with the subject line Virginia Family Issues Leaders For McCain, for the announcement of her endorsement. After looking over the list, God-o-Meter realized that several national Christian Right leaders, including Royce, were hiding in the list of a few dozen local Virginia activists. Others include:
Joseph Cella, Co-founder, Fidelis; Founder/President, National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Fairfax, VA
Austin Ruse, President, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and Former President of the Culture of Life Foundation, Alexandria, VA
Cathy Ruse, Esq., Former chief pro-life spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Alexandria, VA
Talk about burying the lead. Royce, for her part, said she’s not actively working to promote McCain and that she respects other activists’ decision to oppose him. Her rationale for endorsing: “All the evidence shows that he’s going to be the nominee, and in my judgment the next president is going to have to deal with two major issues: national security and judges. And while my entire history is in life and marriage and those things still matter very much to me, if the choice is between McCain, Obama, or Clinton, I will vote for McCain.”
Not exactly a rousing vote of confidence. And Royce says the Arizona Senator still has plenty of work to do. “He is reaching out to the pro-family movement, and he needs to,” Royce says. “There is some concern with his vote on stem cells, which is troublesome.”
Royce also notes that there is still precious little consensus among evangelical activists about what to do in this election cycle. She describes three major camps at the moment: pro-McCain, pro-Mike Huckabee but likely to come to McCain’s side in time, and anti-McCain at all costs, even once he gets the nomination. “In the general election, when the differences are quite stark, you will see more consensus,” Royce says. McCain better hope so. God-o-Meter expects “more consensus” but not necessarily enough to get out the GOP base and put McCain in the White House.


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