Friday, June 01, 2007

McCain Can't Fool Anybody Other than the Press These Days

Two former aides hired to spearhead religious outreach for presidential candidate John McCain say that they were virtually ignored by the campaign and that McCain's top campaign strategists are intent on winning votes of religious voters without having to develop serious ties to faith communities. The aides, who were fired in early April after roughly three months on the job, said the campaign staff declined to return scores of their phone calls and E-mail messages, denied them access to leaders of the McCain campaign, and pressed them to collect church directories—a controversial tactic—as the centerpiece of a strategy to woo "values" voters.

"In the end, you came away with the strong sense that they had contempt for the faith-based community," says Marlene Elwell, one of those fired staffers. Elwell, a prominent Christian-right activist, was hired by McCain in December 2005 to be national director of his "Americans of Faith" coalition. "The way we were being treated it was as if we had leprosy."

The McCain campaign said the aides' dismissals were performance-related and were part of a broader staff reshuffling earlier this spring that grew from weaker-than-expected fundraising.

"We have the opposite of contempt—we have a great deal of affection for that [faith] community and a desire to help them understand that [McCain] is a good candidate for them," says Bob Heckman, senior consultant for the McCain campaign on conservative outreach.

But the other fired staffer, Judy Haynes—a former top Christian Coalition official hired to work under Elwell—had an assessment similar to Elwell's, saying in a separate interview that the campaign exhibited "a contempt for Christians."

The Pat Robertson crowd may be insane, but they aren't necessarily stupid. They know McCain feels the same way about them as he did in 2000. He has managed to piss off moderates who respected that stand, while at the same time isn't closing the deal with the far right who he is cravenly pandering to this time around.

Straight Talk my ass.