McCain created a compromise group, which thwarted the 2005 GOP campaign for conservative judges. Next, he criticized Samuel Alito as too "conservative." Third, he championed the case for total amnesty for 20 million illegal immigrants. Fourth, he currently opposes drilling in ANWAR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). This region holds the largest undiscovered oil reserve in North America. Some believe that recoverable oil would be in the multiple billion barrels not to mention trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. (These numbers are Forbes magazine estimates). Finally, he calls drug companies “crooks” – violating support of business and free enterprise.
How has he alienated his base?
Many folks believe that he has jeopardized free citizen speech (in favor of the media) with the McCain-Feingold Law. Again and again, McCain-Feingold is brought up as an ancient wound that has never been healed. In addition, the current conservative “Bible Gate” promises to fragment the conservative movement if McCain does not listen to someone who understands the evangelical Christian movement.
Unlike Obama’s problem pastor of a few weeks ago, McCain really did not need to explain his pastoral relationships any more than Obama needed to explain his relationship with Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
How can McCain avoid disaster?
He needs to decide to strategically put together a coalition of supporters, which includes both fiscal and social conservatives. The easiest way to reach evangelicals would be to pick a running mate that understands evangelicals. He cannot afford to step on the faith community’s toes or overlook evangelical concerns again. The three best choices are Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, or Bobby Jindal. Any of these men could offer a shot of enthusiasm and a secondary focus for the McCain campaign. Brownback is a triple threat to the Democrats as he can draw fiscal conservatives, evangelicals, and Roman Catholics. Mike Huckabee would also truly motivate evangelicals and bring Obama-like excitement to the southern states. Bobby Jindal could reach both fiscal conservatives and a large segment of the evangelical community.
Finally, the Senator needs to set up a national speech in which he, like Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, explains to the nation what makes him tick spiritually. He needs to break his silence about faith and share his testimony about Vietnam, his faith in Christ, and why he feels so awkward talking about religion. Surely, if Hillary Clinton can talk about the power of the Holy Spirit and grace in a national debate, McCain can press through his shyness.
Only a radical course correction can save McCain’s campaign! Can somebody send McCain a telegram or a smoke signal? It seems that e-mails and telephone calls are not getting through.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.