Southern Baptists Are Key For McCain

The Southern Baptist Convention is the most important voter bloc in the Republican Party and support from its leaders is critical. 

A new poll shows John McCain seriously lagging among white evangelical Protestants. It is perhaps the most volatile voter bloc in the Republican Party. George Herbert Walker Bush carried 81% of the vote in 1988 but barely split the vote with Clinton in his loss of 1992.  Evangelicals were troubled by appointments and many arcane issues, including government sponsored art such as the famous Piss Christ, which had a picture of Jesus in bottle of urine.  In 2000, 4 million evangelicals sat at home as George W. Bush barely won the election in the Supreme Court. This in spite of his famous suspect claim that his favorite “political philosopher” was “Christ, because he changed my heart.”  Bush openly courted the evangelicals throughout his first term and won re-election with 78% of white evangelicals in 2004.  By comparison, a recent private poll obtained by this author, shows John McCain with only 51% of these very same white, evangelical Christians.  It could spell disaster in November. 

One of the most urgent, most important things John McCain can do right now is secure the support of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.  This is the largest Protestant denomination in America. Only Catholics outnumber Southern Baptists.  They are 16.3 million members of the SBC and 94% of them live in 13 Southern States that represent the base for any winning Republican electoral map. If the McCain Camp cannot secure this base, and secure it quickly, then they have no chance to take Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri or other key states needed to win.  If only a few of these Southern Baptists stay home on election day, Blacks and other Democrat voters in the south could steal away some of these states for Barack Obama and it will be all over. 

In 1985, working in the campaign of George Herbert Walker Bush, I directed our focus early toward Southern Baptists. We met and talked with 500 leading pastors and educators.  By 1987, when George W. Bush joined the campaign and became my boss, his father, Vice President Bush, was a personal friend with much of the Southern Baptist leadership.  We had a massive, ongoing personal correspondence running between Bush and all 500 targeted leaders.  We juggled these relationships all the way into the White House.  And when the election year came, we quietly maintained these friendships below the radar screen out of the prying eyes of a hostile, anti-evangelical media, without any offense to the leaders who knew what we were doing. 

In the White House, I brought in Les Csorba, the son in law to Judge Paul Pressler, one of the strategists who helped shape the modern, more conservative, structure of the SBC.  I was surprised to learn that presidents of the SBC were not regularly received at the White House, while we feted Catholic Cardinals almost monthly. We had actually stepped up the White House friendships with the Cardinals as part of a plan I devised to tilt away from the more liberal and contentious Council of Bishops toward the more conservative and Vatican connected Cardinals but at the same time we established a permanent, annual meeting with the leadership of the SBC and inserted their leaders in regular meetings with conservatives.  These meetings were not easily arranged and took much White House infighting to establish but once on the schedule and once the president saw and experienced the benefit, they became a permanent feature of every White House, Republican of Democrat, since that time. 

The Evangelical Movement is not monolithic.  There are many more stops for Senator McCain to make on the way to the White House, and that’s just among evangelicals, let alone other groups.  The fact that Senator McCain, this late in the game, has not secured this base is ominous.  

In 2000, in his frustrating South Carolina primary campaign with rival George W. Bush, a Christian Coalition worker, not a Southern Baptist, spread ugly stories about the Senator’s family.  Understandably, McCain responded angrily, but in the process he labeled all evangelicals as “agents of intolerance.”  He better hope that this is not the case.  With evangelical leader of influence, James Dobson, promising to sit this election out, John McCain needs the Southern Baptist leaders in his camp now.  And he needs their counsel before it all slips away. 

10 Responses to Southern Baptists Are Key For McCain

  1. eyeingtenure says:

    What are your thoughts on the seemingly upcoming self-destruction of the Democratic Party?

  2. thekingpin68 says:

    In the White House, I brought in Les Csorba, the son in law to Judge Paul Pressler, one of the strategists who helped shape the modern, more conservative, structure of the SBC. I was surprised to learn that presidents of the SBC were not regularly received at the White House, while we feted Catholic Cardinals almost monthly.

    Interesting. I suppose you may have met Albert Mohler. Theologian, Stephen Wellum, who works with Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was my advisor at Canadian Baptist Seminary/Trinity Western University.

    These meetings were not easily arranged and took much White House infighting to establish but once on the schedule and once the president saw and experienced the benefit, they became a permanent feature of every White House, Republican of Democrat, since that time.

    My observation, having attended a Baptist seminary and church in the past, is that some Baptists can be very particular to deal with on issues. With two Baptist advisors, I ran into a difficulty, as they did not seem to academically like philosophical, non-pastoral theologians, such as myself. With Blogging, although my theology is basically Reformed, Baptist, I have not been able to secure any Baptist blog links, even though I have commented on Baptist blogs. I have a few Roman Catholics that have linked with me, and we have a fair amount of theological differences.

    …a Christian Coalition worker, not a Southern Baptist, spread ugly stories about the Senator’s family. Understandably, McCain responded angrily, but in the process he labeled all evangelicals as “agents of intolerance.”

    There are agents of ignorance in every group.

    he needs their counsel before it all slips away.

    I suppose in the United States, evangelicals are still a key support for conservative politicians. I wonder if Obama and his Christian confession will take some evangelical votes from McCain, if the process gets that far.

    Have a good weekend, Doug.

    Russ

  3. davidblack2 says:

    Doug, I think it’s fair to remind your readers that Bush 41’s use of the Christian Right’s support was a matter of political expediency. First of all, like his son, Bush 43, Bush 41 was no conservative and essentially said so when he began using that oxymoronic term you coined (“compassionate conservatism”) as a means to distance himself from Ronald Reagan, which was a grave mistake. Secondly, I know the Christian Right wasn’t at all pleased when GHWB appointed two moderate libs to the Supreme Court before finally getting it right with Clarence Thomas.

    The Christian Right also wasn’t at all pleased when 41 wimped out and failed to oust Saddam Hussein when Stormin’ Norman had the troops in place to do so swiftly and efficiently in 1991. America would be in an entirely different position right now vis a vis the Middle East if that had occured then, wouldn’t it?

    Sorry, just like the Democrat party is wrong to cater to Big Labor and radical fringers represented by the ACLU, GLAAD, PETA, Greens, and the Congressional Black Caucus, the GOP shouldn’t have to sell out to the Bible thumpers to win elections, especially if they plan to bait and switch anyway.

  4. raleyb says:

    Maybe everyone will sit out this years election.

    I have talked to labor union guys and leaders who are not fond of Clinton or Obama but who are indifferent about McCain.

    Evangelicals and Southern Baptists are very wishy-washy about McCain as their man just as the article states.

    I have a devout Catholic grandmother who always votes democrat along with our her small town friends. They are highly displeased with Clinton, will not vote for the young Obama and are not excited by McCain.

    I have liberal family members who like Obama but when the time comes to vote they may be as enthusiastic as the Hollywood crowd and not even show up. If a good movie comes on it’s enough to keep some of these surface level excitables at home.

    The labor union leader was leaning heavily toward Huckabee.
    My grandmother who doesn’t have email and wasn’t in the loop when I was supporting Huckabee tells me this week- she would have voted for that nice man.

    Obviously, he had the support of the evangelicals and the southern baptists. I think he has some cross appeal that pundits didn’t see. I haven’t even mentioned that he always carried 48% or so of the black vote in Arkansas.

    What a shame that he’s not on the ticket yet?

    I’m in Kentucky and I’ll be honest that Louisville is not a microcosm of the US. We do have a million people and a very diverse culture in the city. So far I can’t see anyone excited about a candidate in our neck of the woods.

    Interesting wrenches in the process- Bob Barr on the Libertarian ticket with Ron Paul’s backing. We already have Nadar and the green party. What about Keyes and the constitution party?

    McCain pick Huckabee. You still won’t win but at least you won’t lose in a landslide.

  5. davidblack2 says:

    raleyb: what evidence do you have that McCain “won’t win”?

    Alan Keyes? You’ve got to be kidding. He is a completely inept politician who can’t win even one race.

    He is responsible for Barry Hussein Obama aka Martin Luther Kennedy being where he is right now, quite frankly.

  6. raleyb says:

    Who would have any evidence that McCain or Obama will win? We’re all just conjecturing at this point. I just don’t see McCain solidying conservatives of which I’m one. Even if he solidified his base then he still has to deal with the money imbalance and even more important the “MOMENTUM” that the dems have.

    Of course Keyes won’t make much difference in the race, however, it isn’t often that we have four of five potential parties in an election. I do agree with Alan Keyes but he has a little to much edge to be taken serious by the masses.

    Dems
    Republicans
    Libertarians
    Green Party
    Constitutional Party
    Michael Bloomberg maybe as and independant to really make it intersting?

  7. davidblack2 says:

    Quite frankly, I deem the Greens, the LOSERtarians, and the Constitutionals as fringe groups who would only ensure some bogus European styled election result where a winner only gets 30-40% of the vote. I want two parties and a clear majority winner. If these fringe groups want to achieve the same status as the Dems and the GOp then they have to earn it.

  8. raleyb says:

    Fringe groups or not, they still keep the majority party candidates from solidifying their support. Some very strict evangelicals like Dobson could follow Keyes and the Consitution party. Some of the environmental extremists could go with Nader taking away from the two very liberal democrat candidates. The Libertarians are very much conservative in many aspects. You’d be surprised at how many are pro lifers with a very Christian worldview. Sure there are those who are Libertarians just because of drug legalization, but many are much more interested in small government, privacy and things like property rights. An independant could take away votes from dems and McCain.

    I haven’t at any point said this was good or bad. I’m just anaylizing the situation. I’m only 32 but haven’t seen anything like this election in my life.

    I wouldn’t draw any conclusion from my commments davidblack2. You never know I may agree with you.

  9. davidblack2 says:

    NO ONE has seen an election like this, for that matter!

    You can’t be a true conservative without conservative SOCIAL views.

    Libertarians do not have conservative social views.

  10. jwinthrop says:

    The SBC lacks power because its president serves a one year term and has no leverage whatsoever because of it. Even so, as you point out, their sheer numbers demand respect.

    It is interesting that they have always wanted their own man in the White House but their hay day came when you, a Pentecostal, were there and kept pointing to the numbers.

    It is an old principle. You can’t promote your own. But someone else, anyone else, can promote you. But evangelicals are still too divided to have any lasting influence.

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