McCain VP Pick Shores Up Christian Right Base
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 03:20:24 PM EST

With the choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, U.S. Sen. John McCain has demonstrated that his political strategists see the need to shore up support for the Republican Party within the Christian Right voter base. The article the Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale and I wrote for the Progressive Magazine "The Christian Right's Staying Power" suggested this was a possible outcome.

But McCain has not written off the Christian Right as powerless. The same McCain who, in his last bid for the Presidency, labeled various Christian Right leaders as “agents of intolerance” has not only apologized and embraced those leaders (Robertson and the late Falwell), but has accepted the endorsement of one of the worst of the bunch, John Hagee, who infamously called Hurricane Katrina an act of God against New Orleans for sponsoring a gay pride event.
Hagee and McCain later distanced their ties.
Already, the base is reponding. According to a Texas newspaper story here, Texas Republicans cheered the selection of Palin, "saying she has solid social-conservative credentials and that the selection of a woman marks a historic moment for the GOP and a chance to appeal to disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton."

"It's a slam dunk" said delegate Cathie Adams, Republican National Committeewoman-elect and president of the Texas Eagle Forum. "I think that people who are concerned about 'How conservative is Mr. McCain' are now going to say, 'If he can make a choice of Sarah Palin, then he can be trusted with our conservative ideals.' "

The Eagle Forum is an affiliate of Phyllis Schlafly's national organization of arch-conservatives.

In our article (July 2008) we argued that "Some have seen McCain’s strength rooted in his ability to appeal as a moderate conservative—one who might attract independent, and even some more conservative, Democratic voters. The embrace of the Hagee endorsement, however, suggests that McCain considers the Christian Right vote more crucial to his success than the independent/moderate vote."

But there were a number of indications that McCain was seeking to woo the Christian Right. Trial balloons suggesting Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee were top contenders for the VP slot were one indication that the Christian Right needed some attention, given substantial lack of enthusiasm for McCain.

But Romney was coming across as too slick and elitist, and was still being dragged down by antipathy among some Christian evangelicals for his being a Mormon.

Last February, I wrote here: "Huckabee Fails to Keep Southern Evangelical Base United." So while many in the Christian Right voted for Huckabee in those southern primaries, not enough other White evangelicals voted for Huckabee. In other words, Huckabee would scare away too many moderate Republicans and not attract enough of the Christian evangelical base outside the Christian Right. Remember, the Christian Right is only a small portion of the White evangelical electorate, but although it is only 15% of the electorate, it votes overwhelmingly Republican with little change over time. One study found that 40 percent of the total vote for Bush in 2000 came from Christian Evangelicals, making it the largest single voting bloc in the Republican Party. But some White Christian evangelicals are swing voters.

What McCain is attempting to do by selecting Palin is to close the God Gap by solidifying the base of the Republican Party in the Christian Right, while at the same time appealing to a broader base of White Christian evangelicals. And Palin will appear quite mainstream to most moderate Republicans and independents.

Here is how the God Gap Works.

Some Interesting God Gap Shifts


White Protestant Evangelicals








God Gap:
Shift= + 7%
Shift= + 4%
Shift= - 7%

Again, from the Progressive Magazine
There are also strategic reasons for the Christian Right to be lukewarm toward McCain. Author Adele Stan has been pointing out for months that Christian Right strategists used Pat Buchanan’s threat to bolt the GOP in 1996 as leverage to write into the Republican Party platform an ultraconservative wish list that helped sink the “too-liberal” Republican candidate Bob Dole. The next election in 2000 saw Republican strategists kneeling before the Christian Right voter base. This year it is possible that many Christian Right strategists will focus on Republican Senate seats and state elections and aim at rekindling a conservative resurgence in 2012.
More soon - stay tuned

See, for more information: Chip Berlet. 2008.
"Huckabee Fails to Keep Southern Evangelical Base United"

Chip Berlet. 2008. "Reading the Bible Belt Before Coming of Super Tuesday"

Chip Berlet & Pam Chamberlain. 2006. Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture Wars in 2006. Political Research Associates.

Chip Berlet, "Midterm Election 2006: Pundit Watch," Talk to Action.

Chip Berlet, "The Christian Right, Mid-term Elections, & Social Movements," Talk to Action.

John C. Green and Mark Silk, "Why Moral Values Did Count," Religion in the News, 2005, (Spring).

Scott Keeter, "Evangelicals and the GOP: An Update. -- Strongly Republican Group Not Immune to Party's Troubles," Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, October 18, 2006.

Geoffrey C. Layman, and John C. Green, "Wars and Rumors of Wars: The Contexts of Cultural Conflict in American Political Behavior," British Journal of Political Science 36(1), (January 2006): 61-89.

Andrew Kohut, "The Real Message of the Midterms," Pew Research Center, November 14, 2006.

Mark J. Rozell, "What Christian Right?" Religion in the News, Spring 2003, Vol. 6, No. 1.

Steven Waldman, " The Smaller God Gap," On Belief, BeliefNet,

Election cycle disclaimer. These are my personal essays written on my own time.

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates ---
More on the Christian Right


WWW Talk To Action

The Catholic Right Star and the Porn Star -- Revised and Updated
An international network of some of the world’s most vitriolic Religious Right activists and self-proclaimed orthodox religious leaders is holding its ninth global conference......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
Banned In Boston (And Elsewhere): The American Tragedy Of Censorship
When I was kid, the phrase "Banned in Boston" confused me. I thought of Boston as a liberal, cosmopolitan city. Surely they didn't censor......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Bill Donohue Mum While Andrew Napolitano Calls Pope Francis "A False Prophet"
Catholic League president Bill Donohue goes after anyone he believes is engaging in anti-Catholic behavior, real or imagined. But as we have come to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
A Decade Of Disgrace: Marking Ten Years Of The `Values Voter Summit'
The annual Values Voter Summit (VVS), the nation's largest gathering of the Religious Right, begins today. The event, sponsored by the Family Research Council......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Looking Beyond the Francis Frenzy
Much has been and will be written about the Pope regarding his historic visit to the U.S.  But it will be important to try......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Barton Bounces Back: Religious Right Purveyor Of Ersatz History Still Going Strong
Three years ago, Religious Right phony historian David Barton published a ridiculous book called The Jefferson Lies that argued, in part, that Thomas Jefferson......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
The Papal Visit Brings Forth Ugliness From the Right
In a recent press release, Catholic League president Bill Donohue warned, "Pope Visits To U.S. Occasion Ugliness." Donohue then went on to describe the......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Coercion In Kansas?: State Worker Claims She Was Fired For Non-Attendance At Christian Service
Let's say some people at a company want to get together during lunch hour and hold a Bible study. It's totally voluntary, and they......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
Kim Davis and Southern Civil Disobedience
Kim Davis, the county official who refused to grant marriage licenses, fits the profile of a long line of civil disobedience from the South.......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
An Anti-Theocratic, Progressive Christian Leader
I recently posted a short excerpt here, from an interview I published with Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, the new General Minister and President of......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Litany Of Lies: FRC's Perkins Packs An Email With Copious Falsehoods
I realize that people may be tired of reading about the saga of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky., clerk who is in jail......
By Rob Boston (6 comments)
Kim Davis is No Jack Kennedy
Kim Davis, the embattled Kentucky county clerk who sits in jail for defying a Federal Court order to issue marriage licenses to everyone who......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Book Report: Yes, Politicians, We Know You Love The Bible. What Else Have You Read?
Real estate magnate Donald Trump says lots of outrageous stuff, but none of it seems to slow him down. His latest gaffe, however, ought......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
American Renewal Project
On my journey to the American Renewal Project in Austin, Texas, I listened to hard right talk radio out of Houston.  There was an......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)
`Just Go Somewhere Else!': A Cavalier Dismissal Of A Serious Concern
A few years ago, I took part in a panel discussion on church-state issues at a Seventh-day Adventist church in Takoma Park, Md. During......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)

Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (1 comment)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (0 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (1 comment)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (2 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (2 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else © 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.