The Dallas Morning News has the best update in weeks on the McCain camp’s stepped-up religious outreach effort, its scaled-back vision for the role of evangelicals in 2008 as compared to ’04, and the continuing evangelical critique of the whole operation.
The story reports that McCain has finally hired someone to direct it’s religious outreach program: Marlys Popma, who appears to have serious evangelical and political credentials. From her resume on the Nashville Speakers Bureau web site:

Today, Marlys is the President of IHS (In His Service) Consulting. IHS consults non-profit and political organizations according to Biblical principals. She has also served as the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa, Deputy National Political Director for Bauer for President 2000, National Deputy Political Director of the Campaign for Working Families and the Executive Director of the Iowa Family Policy Council. In addition to serving as President of Iowa’s Right to Life Committee, she was the official Spokesperson for the McCaughey Family immediately following the birth of their septuplets!

At the same time, the DMN reports that the McCain team is unabashed about following a much different model than Bush did in 2004, when the President largely succeeded in achieving Karl Rove’s goal of getting four million more evangelicals to the polls than had gone in 2000 (3.5 million more turned out in ’04):

“We can’t win the election the way George Bush did by just running up the score with Republicans, running up the score with evangelicals and taking what we can out of the independent mix,” said Sarah Simmons, the campaign’s director of strategy.

Critiquing it all is a granddaddy of modern Republican religious outreach:

Doug Wead, who headed Christian outreach efforts for former President George Bush in 1988, said the McCain campaign has bungled its rapprochement with the religious right.
“Normally, you have to have it done two years in advance,” he said. For the elder Mr. Bush’s campaign, “we met with all the leadership by 1986. It was in the bag.”
Mr. Wead said the problem is not that evangelicals will flock to Mr. Obama but that they won’t work actively for Mr. McCain in churches and communities.
“It’s a priceless infrastructure that is built in with volunteers and paid staff,” he said. “Some of the TV ministries have mailing lists the size of the NRA, and to take them out, to have them unused is just deadly for the Republican Party in three areas: voter registration, voter education and voter turnout.”

If Wead is right–and God-o-Meter is by no means sure that he is–he and his ilk of Republican faith operatives will be back in demand in the next election cycle. Right now, many of those operatives have time on their hands, while their Democratic counterparts are straining to keep up with demand for their services.


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