The Perils of Courting the Right

It is no secret that Barack Obama’s campaign has made a concerted effort to reach out to evangelical voters in this election, especailly younger evangelicals.  Among those it has courted is Cameron Strang and his father, Charisma Magazine founder Steven Strang – who is more of an old-guard evangelical who was an early supporter of Mike Huckabee and, just last week, endorsed John McCain.  

Cameron Strang had even been tapped to deliver the benediction at the Democratic convention, but pulled out at the last minute over concerns that his presence could be seen as an endorsement.  But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have advice for the Obama campaign on how to deal with Sarah Palin and her extreme views on abortion:

Strang, who participated in a faith caucus at the convention but decided that speaking on national television would be too political, said Obama has a chance to peel away evangelicals, particularly the younger voters who read his magazine. Obama has effectively emphasized areas of common ground, like social justice and the environment, Strang said. But he warned of a backlash if Democrats hammer Palin’s hard-line stance on abortion.

”If they use it as wedge issue, it will push away Christian voters and they will undo everything positive they’ve accomplished in terms of faith outreach,” said Strang, who recently changed his voter registration from Republican to independent. “I think a lot of moderate Christians are still up for grabs.”

As we have noted repeatedly in the past, the idea that there is a “new evangelical” movement afoot that can be wooed away from the Religious Right and the Republican Party hinges on the belief that many of the movement’s leaders and followers are more moderate on social issues such as abortion and homosexuality, or at least will not make those issues the sole basis of their voting decisions.

The fact that Strang is advising the Obama campaign not to expose Palin’s ulta-right-wing views on abortion less he risk alienating “moderate Christians” just highlights the danger of making those assumptions.