The fury of the Foley scandal is threatening to sink Republican candidates in races across the country
Evangelical angst. Some Christian conservatives, meanwhile, say the scandal not only threatens to keep from the polls voters who are disillusioned with a party that espouses "morals and values" but also threatens to dampen organizing efforts that were so important to the Republican victories of 2004. "This is a betrayal of the public trust," says Russell Johnson, a prominent evangelical pastor who leads the Ohio Restoration Project of roughly 1,700 pastors and church leaders. "We're finding more skepticism and more malaise at a time when we need people to care about the political process instead of being cynical." A column on World Net Daily, an influential website among antiabortion activists, sought to rally support by reminding them that a Democratic-controlled Senate could hold up President Bush's next Supreme Court nomination. "Pro-lifers planning to punish the Republican Party and Republican pro-life candidates next month for being less than perfect," the column read, "are behaving just like Democrats who advocate a cut-and-run strategy in Iraq."
Indeed, Johnson and other leaders of the Christian right are standing by the Republican leadership, accusing Democrats of using a double standard because they declined to pressure Democratic lawmakers like ex-Rep. Gerry Studds and Rep. Barney Frank to resign after they were implicated in sex scandals. "Voters of faith are very sophisticated," former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed tells U.S. News. "They can make a distinction between an individual's moral failure and a systematic failure on the part of the Republican Congress. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Republican leadership was aware of this sexually explicit communication." Conservative evangelical groups like Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America went so far as to assign blame to liberals, arguing that acceptance of homosexuality as a cultural norm created the conditions for the Foley scandal.
But Zogby's polling shows that evangelical Christians, 78 percent of whom supported George Bush two years ago, are now backing Republicans with a little over 50 percent support. And the Democrats are working to take advantage of that opening. "A significant number of evangelicals have decided they'd prefer not to vote for Republicans in this election," says Dean. "The issue now is to make them comfortable with voting for Democrats." Or, perhaps, with not voting at all.
With Silla Brush