Reed Advises McCain Not to Court Right-Wing Leaders

You know that something odd is happening within the Republican Party when a high-profile Religious Right leader is publicly advising John McCain NOT to seek the endorsement of other high-profile Religious Right leaders.  

And you know that something really odd is happening when that figure is Ralph Reed, whose own political career tanked thanks to McCain’s own investigation into the corrupt world of Jack Abramoff.   Yet here Reed is, nearly two years later, doling out campaign advice to McCain as the candidate struggles to overcome the controversy generated by the endorsements of John Hagee and Rod Parsley:

John McCain should stop seeking endorsements from evangelical pastors and instead appeal directly to their church members, said Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition executive director.

“John McCain doesn’t need to be standing at a bank of microphones next to a particular leader,” Reed said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” to be broadcast today. “My advice would be stay away from endorsements and stick to the issues.”

Reed, 46, said McCain’s strategy of wooing evangelicals shouldn’t be “top down,” and his meetings with leaders and activists should be held in private.

“He needs to connect with them” by touting his opposition to same-sex marriage and his anti-abortion record, said Reed, a regional director of President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

McCain has made “some real progress” in repairing his relationship with evangelicals, Reed said. He cited a May 6 speech at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in which McCain promised to choose judges in the mold of U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Both were among the five justices who voted in June 2007 to weaken the senator’s landmark campaign-finance law.

“It was one of the best speeches on judicial conservative philosophy from a Republican nominee in my career,” Reed said.

McCain clearly needs some help on figuring out how best to woo the right-wing base he needs in November, but it’s not clear that he should be taking advice from a guy who lost his own Republican primary race because of his history of exploiting that base for professional gain.