Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

This week, the presidential campaign will cross the 40-day mark. It is closer than anyone would have imagined. Every vote will count. The question on many minds will be: how does one campaign lock up the race and seize the presidency? From the very beginning, the election has been the Democrats’ to lose

I have been shocked during the last two weeks at the outrageous attempts that the media has made to paint Sara Palin’s faith as extreme. CNN ran a series of special reports in which they interviewed members of Sara Palin’s former church in Wassila, Alaska. They even directly queried members of her former congregation, in which she spent nearly two decades, about the practice of speaking in tongues. In addition, reporters attempted to make her current church sound cult-like. Next Pat Oliphant, political cartoonist of the Washington Post, made fun of both God and Sarah Palin on September 9. He featured a God that cursed about right wing people and a Governor Palin speaking in gibberish that even God did not recognize as speaking in tongues.

Finally, to pour salt into an open wound, there has been an endless barrage of media attacks, yellow journalism for over 10 days. Just last week I was surprised to hear talk show hosts describe “Pentecostalism” as “evangelicalism on steroids – much more dangerous than the normal evangelicals”.

As a result of all of this, Governor Palin’s approval rating has swung south by a remarkable 21 points. She has been fired on from all angles but she has not fired back – defending her faith and values in an aggressive enough manner. Part of the problem is that the McCain campaign has not been able to build on the momentum from her initial debut with the audience that will have the most affinity with her - the conservative and evangelical communities.

It’s crunch time and seeing an excited base actually showing up to vote is the McCain/Palin ticket’s primary hope. The McCain campaign missed an opportunity last weekend to be a part of the Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC, which attracted the grassroots activists of the evangelical movement. These are the foot soldiers that Karl Rove was able to engage in 2004. This army, largely self-directed, literally carried Bush over the threshold in his race. I am convinced that they can do it again if they believe in the candidates.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

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.