Now that a large group of Religious Right activists have come forward in support of John McCain, the candidate might be tempted to sit back and relax. But as McCain learned from his experience with televangelists John Hagee and Rod Parsley, it’s not easy to be both a beloved “maverick” and a right-wing champion.
McCain was happy to campaign with Hagee and Parsley, until the media started to pick up their extreme views—thus risking McCain’s “moderate” image among many independent voters.
So what happens if and when people start hearing about McCain’s new friends? If Hagee and Parsley are too much for McCain, voters may begin to wonder, what about these right-wing activists, some of whom are even further out there?
Does McCain endorse David Barton’s partisan pseudo-history of America as a “Christian nation”? Does McCain share Phil Burress’s view that Ohio’s anti-gay marriage amendment should have invalidated the state’s domestic violence law? What are McCain’s thoughts on Tim LaHaye’s warning that “Brilliant Jewish minds have all too frequently been devoted to philosophies that have proved harmful to mankind”? Does McCain believe, like Phyllis Schlafly, that women cannot be raped by their husbands, that the U.S. government is secretly plotting to merge with Mexico and Canada, or that Mexican immigrants are “invading” the U.S. and spreading disease? (For that matter, does this mean Schlafly has successfully “worked over” McCain?)
McCain will be tempted to ditch them, as he did Parsley and Hagee, but that only managed to anger the Religious Right. Mat Staver, who organized the recent pro-McCain meeting, complained of McCain’s abandonment of the televangelists he’d courted, “He threw them under the bus.” Right-wing strategist Mark DeMoss called it a “slap in the face to evangelicals who are already somewhat suspect of Senator McCain.” But keeping his Religious Right friends along may be a slap in the face to his poll numbers.