Unlike George Bush, John Kerry has to straddle not only the difference between his base and the swing vote on religious themes, but a radical difference in taste between key constituents of the Democrat Party.
A June Time magazine poll, for example, showed just 7 percent of likely voters consider Kerry a man of strong religious faith. At the same time, a third of Kerry voters agreed that Bush's "intense religious views" worried them. How to walk that fine line? Kerry on the stump alternates between references to himself as a man of faith, with pronouncements of his strong faith in that "beautiful line" separating church and state in America. Another strategy? Market segmentation: Kerry's campaign recently began running Spanish-language TV ads in Spanish with "Faith" as a theme.
But for a real glimpse of how difficult the religion thing is for Kerry, take a look at the Democrats' checkered efforts to hire a director of religious outreach.
The Kerry campaign's first choice was a woman named Mara Vanderslice, who came to Kerry after occupying a similar position in the Dean campaign. Mara's fall from grace with Kerry came after the Catholic League outed her as a hard-left activist, according to the Washington Times: "The campaign began to marginalize Miss Vanderslice when the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights mounted a public campaign against her, saying she spoke at a rally co-sponsored by the homosexual group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (Act-Up) and should be 'working for Fidel Castro.'"
Miss Vanderslice was muzzled, ordered not to speak to the press, leaving (as Amy Sullivan, a specialist on religion and the Democratic Party who addressed the Democratic Leadership Council last fall on "God, Guns and Guts," freely confessed to the Washington Times) "no one in their communications shop who is conversant in religion."
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.