palin15.jpgIn Alaska today, Sarah Palin indulged reporters on the subject of her future political should McCain lose the election.
Here’s what she said:

“You know, if there is a role in national politics, it won’t be so much partisan,” she said. “My efforts have always been here in the state of Alaska to get everybody to unite and work together and progress this state.”
“It would certainly be a uniter type of role,” she added.
Asked if she had any regrets about the campaign, Palin bemoaned “the state of journalism today.”
“The blogosphere, the two-, three-hour news cycles, where just too much is reported based on gossip and innuendo and things taken out of context,” she explained, adding that she’d like to help improve the profession because she has “great respect for the world of journalism.”

GOM thinks that’s pretty telling. Though Palin was a hit among the GOP’s religious base and bombed among pretty much everyone else–illustrating the nation’s enduring culture war divisions–she’s vowing to become a uniter. Is this Palin looking to broaden her support base for 2012 in light of her narrow appeal in this election cycle? Or does she actually have a point–that she’d always been a uniter in Alaska (were she had a track record of working with Democrats and declined to make hot button social issues a key part of her governership) and has been unfairly portrayed as a divisive figure, as the Christian Right’s poster girl, by the national news media?
Has Palin, been socially conservative, Post-Christian RIght, Huckabeesque figure all along? It’s an important question, since her image as the opposite sort of figure, as an old line culture warrior, may have sunk the Republican ticket. At the same time, it’s worth remembering that Mike Huckabee–the Baptist preacher that even a secular liberal could love–failed to get traction outside of the GOP’s evangelical base.
Should McCain lose, Palin and Huckabee may be slugging it out to become the next great hope of the Christian Right. But do either of them have a political future on the national stage beyond that? The overwhelming evidence so far suggests not.

fpl2.jpgThe progressive religious group Faith in Public Life is sending this memo (below) ’round to journalists and talking heads in anticipation of Obama’s expected gains among several important faith communities today.
God-o-Meter agrees with the likely trends that Faith in Public Life has identified. But it questions FPL’s rationale for Obama’s likeky gains among the faithful, which it claims is the result of Democrats’ faith outreach, the rise of the Religious Left, and shifting terrain on hot button issues among evangelicals and the broader electorate.
But Faith in Public Life has left out the biggest reason for the shift of various faith constituencies to the Democratic column. It’s the economy, stupid.
Beliefnet’s recent 12 Tribes of American politics survey showed that economic woes had dramatically eclipsed hot button social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. In one of the most dramatic examples, one in three Latino Christians said social issues were most important in 2004, when Bush won 45-percent of them. This year, only one in eight say those social issues are most important. And 61 percent say the economy is their topmost concern.
The Iraq war, too, has turned off relgious voters to the GOP.
What the newly faith-friendly Democrats and a burgeoining Religious Left have done is to help Barack Obama and the rest of his party take advantage of disenchantment over the economy and the war by making religious voters a lot more comfortable with them.
It’s not so much that religious voters’ increasing support for the Democrats is faith-based. It’s that there’s a lot less faith-based revulsion to the Democrats than there used to be.
Here’s the memo from Faith in Public Life:

TO: Political and religious experts and analysts
FROM: Katie Paris and the Faith in Public Life Team
RE: The 2008 Religious Vote

Changes in voting behavior among key religious groups from four years ago could make the difference for Sen. McCain or Sen. Obama today. This memo draws on polling data from 2004 through this week to identify 5 RELIGIOUS VOTE SHIFTS TO WATCH and points to trends and developments in faith and politics over the last four years to identify 5 FACTORS SHIFTING RELIGIOUS VOTERS.

• GOP grip on Midwestern white evangelicals appears to be slipping. Obama stands to improve upon Kerry’s performance among evangelicals by more than 10% in states like OH and IN. He has not made gains nationally, but even a 5% increase would be significant given the size of this voting bloc.
• Catholic vote overall likely to back Obama, especial Latino Catholics. White Catholics are still a wild card, but Obama appears likely to gain more votes from them than did Kerry or Gore.
• Mainline Protestants are closely divided. After favoring Bush by 10 points over both Gore and Kerry, their preference for the Republican ticket is dissipating.
• Hispanic evangelicals likely to swing to Obama after backing Bush strongly in 2004.
• The broadening of the evangelical agenda. Evangelicals are emphasizing a broader set of issues, including poverty, the environment and global concerns.
• The terrain has shifted on social issues. A common ground approach to abortion emphasizing abortion reduction has emerged and same-sex marriage has lost prominence on the national stage.
• Progressive religious groups have gained prominence while the religious right has faltered. Presidential candidates’ participation in forums sponsored by progressive religious groups demonstrates this shift.
• Campaign faith outreach is a whole new ball game. Obama has pursued religious voters more aggressively than Gore or Kerry, and McCain has not replicated Bush’s connection with religious conservatives.
• Palin effect unclear. While Palin has energized some religious conservatives, her impact among them electorally may be overstated and she may be pushing moderate people of faith away from the GOP ticket.

Family Research Council Action has this last-minute ad running in Virginia, where polls show Barack Obama a few points up, hitting Obama for declining to oppose partial birth abortion in Illinois.

For all of the candidates’–and the electorate’s–focus on economic issues, the final days of the campaign have seen a lot of these hot-button ads, a testatment to the emotional power that social conservatives think such arguments have. The Pennsylvania Republican Party’s Rev. Wright ad fits into that category.

Honestly, God-o-Meter is shocked that state Republican parties have been so deferntial until now in honoring John McCain’s request that they refrain from making such Wright-centric ads. Was that a courtesy on McCain’s part? Or more evidence of discomfort discussing matters religious?


Update: GOM noticed that the video for this ad on the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s web site wasn’t working and called to inquire about whether the party had pulled the ad. Party spokesman Michael Barley assured GOM that the ad is still up and running, but was decidedly sheepish about the ad’s creation or timing. “The only comment I have,” Barley said, “Is it’s running on broadcast TV and is an indepednent independent expenditure not authorized or affiliated with any candidate or candidate committee.”