Part of Barack Obama’s allure, since his 2004 keynote address at the Democratic convention, is that he could win over religious voters that Democrats have had difficulty with since Ronald Reagan. Democrats came to be associated with the Bill Clinton approach to religious groups; Republicans, with the George W. Bush approach. “We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States,” Obama said in 2004, in a speech that many people think the Democrats had found their candidate, and that he was giving the keynote and not accepting the nomination.
But four years later Obama and religion haven’t mixed well, with the Obama campaign marred by the Jeremiah Wright/Michael Pfleger blowups and by the Senator’s “cling to guns and religion” remark, both of which undercut the idea of Obama as the “post-racial”-heal-the-nation candidate. Since the start of the campaign Obama’s had to go so far as to leave his church after a controversial speech by Father Michael Pfleger that must be seen to be appreciated.
Just earlier today W. James Antle III of The American Spectator blogged that McCain is polling at Bush levels with Evangelicals. But that was before Obama announced plans to expand President Bush’s faith-based programs.
Obama’s hope is that by taking on a platform plank of an unpopular Republican president — and promising to do it for real this time, not just a “photo op” — he can cut into some of the McCain base while proving his deference for religion. If he can force McCain to fight to keep what should already be his, he’ll have less resources to win over independent voters.
It gets worse for McCain. David Paul Kuhn reports that the “McCain game plan worries insiders,” and that the McCain campaign, despite holding the nomination for nearly four months, has failed to mobilize aides in several important states, putting it behind the Republican National Committee in grassroots organization — which puts the organizational problem squarely on McCain’s shoulders. McCain’s opponent stands behind a base that is equal parts angry, hopeful, and motivated to induce change in November. McCain’s supporters just aren’t as motivated, nor as numerous.
Said one of Kuhn’s sources, “a Republican strategist who helped lead a past presidential campaign”: “What’s the political strategy when you allow your opponent, who has just had a grueling four months, time to catch their breath, regroup, fundraise and start to define himself? It’s politics 101.”