frc.jpgLast night, God-o-Meter noted that the Family Research Council Action, the powerful DC-based evangelical advocacy group, had some surprisingly kind words for John McCain, given its vocal disappointment about McCain’s flaccid Christian Right outreach. So God-o-Meter checked in today with Connie Mackey, FRC’s senior vice president, about whether McCain has stepped up his effort to woo religious conservatives. Here’s how Mackey responded via email:

[H]e did “reach out” in the one-hour interview with Chris Matthews at Villanova University when he said that choosing a “pro-choice” vp would be difficult because the Republican party is
concerned about the welfare of the unborn and the he has a deep commitment to the protection of the unborn himself.

Could McCain’s April 15 appearance on Hardball been a turning point in relations with conservative Christians? Mackey’s not the first activist to suggest that’s the case. Here’s the relevant exchange from Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about your Republican party. You’ve been a maverick, and a lot of people like you because of that. I want to ask you how much of a maverick you are. Would you put a person on the ticket with you, like the former governor of this state who is very popular, Tom Ridge, even though he may disagree on the issue of Roe v Wade and abortion rights? Would you put somebody on the ticket like that, on that one issue? Would that stop him?
MCCAIN: I don’t know if it would stop him, but it would be difficult. I just want to say that Tom Ridge is one of the great Americans. He served in the Vietnam War. He served in Congress. He served as a great governor of this state. I am proud to call him my friend.
MATTHEWS: Why that one issue? Why is it that one litmus test issue?
MCCAIN: I’m not saying that would be necessarily, but I am saying it’s basically the respect and cherishing of the right of the unborn is one of the fundamental principles of my party. And it’s a—and it’s a deeply held belief of mine. But I just want to say, again, the admiration and respect and affection that I have for Tom Ridge—he and I came to the Congress together many years ago. And I can’t tell you how much I admire him.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people, senator—I looked at the polls. They have some value, not just who’s going to win, because that’s not always predictable, even with the polls. But a lot of people in Florida, for example, who say that they’re pro-choice Republicans—I don’t even like that phrase, pro-choice. They support the woman’s ultimate right to make the decision. They like you, even though they disagree with you. Explain that.
MCCAIN: The only thing I can say is that in America we can disagree sometimes on specific issues even if they’re of the most important issues. And I want to say that the rights of the unborn is one of my most important values, but we can have disagreement. There is room for debate in our nation and our party. We should have a healthy and respectful discussion and debate on these issues.
I realize you’re going to have to change the culture of America before there’s full respect given to the right of the unborn. I understand that. And I look forward to the debate and discussion and a respectful fashion.

Is God-o-Meter missing something? McCain has always been pro-life, with a solid anti-abortion record in the Senate. Has the Christian Right set the bar for him so low–after “agents of intolerance,” McCain-Feingold, the Gang of 14, and opposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage–that so long as he reiterates his long held position on abortion, he’s got the movement’s support? Being so distrusted by your party’s base apparently has some benefits; it doesn’t take much to have them give you a second look.


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