John McCain had never, until recently, been the darling of the Religious Right. Even while crafting a political record that furthered much of their agenda, McCain had never been particularly fond of the Right, a view that was on full display back in 2000 when he lashed out against the movement’s leaders as “corrupting influences on religion and politics” and “agents of intolerance.”
Because of this long-standing mutual animosity, McCain had never been invited to most of the annual right-wing gathering and presumably wouldn’t have attended if he had. But that changed last year when he suddenly realized that he desperately needed their support if he was to win the Republican nomination, at which point he started showing up at their confabs, showing up at CPAC, addressing the secretive Council for National Policy and joining all the other GOP hopefuls at the FRC’s Values Voter Summit.
At the time of the FRC summit, McCain’s campaign was thought to be dead in the water and the battle for right-wing hearts and minds was being waged between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. But since then, McCain has managed to secure the nomination and, though his relationship with the Right remained strained, he began working hard to win the over; an effort that finally succeeded with his decision to name Sarah Palin as his running mate.
But now the time is approaching for this year’s Values Voter Summit – The Battle for America’s Future:
And while the organizers are racking up big name speakers like Sean Hannity, Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney, two names are conspicuously absent from their list of confirmed speakers: John McCain and Sarah Palin. According to the Summit website, both have been invited – yet with only a few days before its begins, neither has agreed to attend.
There appears to be a pattern developing here. Just last week, Palin had been scheduled to address Phyllis Schlafly’s reception at the Republican Convention only to cancel at the last minute. And now, with the biggest right-wing political conference of the year about to get underway – an event which McCain addressed just last year – both he and his running mate are nowhere to be seen.
It seems as if the McCain campaign it trying to have it both ways; picking Palin specifically to appease the Right yet trying to avoid actually being seen in public with them out of fear of undermining the “maverick” image they are desperately trying to craft.