"If Christian conservatives stay on the sidelines during the fall campaign, presidential hopeful John McCain probably stays in the Senate," according to an article by Philip Elliot from the Associated Press.
Representatives of conservative Christian organizations in Ohio--oddly referred to as "family groups" in the AP story--expressed doubts about Senator McCain in a meeting with his advisers last weekend. They stressed that who McCain picks as his running mate could improve the campaign's relations with conservative Christians.
Marlys Popma, McCain's director of evangelical outreach....said the campaign understands the interest in the vice presidential nominee, but she noted that McCain "is the one who is going to be nominating judges. He's going to be the one who is signing or not signing bills."
Putting additional pressure on McCain to reach out to a constituency whose leadership he once referred to as "agents of intolerance," is the fact that Senator Obama's reaching out to conservative Christians, too.
Meanwhile, Obama's campaign is aggressively reaching out to evangelicals.
The Illinois senator dispatched former 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer to meet with fellow Roman Catholics. He sent Brian McLaren, one of the country's most influential pastors, to meet with fellow evangelicals. And aides have conducted more than 200 "American Values Forums," soon to be followed up with house parties and town hall-style meetings aimed at young Catholics and young evangelicals.
Hopefully, he's communicating, not placating by promising to compromise his many relatively progressive positions. To be sure, Christian conservatives are increasingly aware of the fact that they can at times be used and abused by the Republican Party, and Obama's sincere attention--even if it's not couched in terms of agreement--demonstrates respect at the very least, and perhaps provides an opportunity for him to share his own Christian perspectives, albeit more reformist and progressive ones.
Jacques Berlinerblau, "a religious scholar at Georgetown University who studies faith and the U.S. presidential campaign," summed up the value of Obama's American Values Forums and meetings with young Christians thusly: "If he can get up for 21 to 30 percent [of evangelical voters], he's gold.... And that's exactly what he's doing. He's going to fissure off this progressive evangelical voter."