The cameras were rolling last October as Rod Parsley took to the Statehouse steps in Columbus to announce the kickoff of his grassroots group, Reformation Ohio. Bolstered by a bused-in crowd of supporters, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, rappers, and a dance troupe, Parsley grabbed the microphone and sounded the call to arms.
"A Holy Ghost invasion is taking place!" he called. "Man your battle stations, ready your weapons, lock and load. Let the reformation begin!"
Some analysts credit Parsley for helping President George W. Bush win Ohio in 2004. As pastor of the 12,000-member World Harvest Church, Parsley used his platform to campaign for a state ban on gay marriage. When those he rallied entered the polling booth, most also pulled the lever for Bush, who won the state by only two percentage points.
Parsley has ambitious goals for the November election, which features hard-fought Ohio gubernatorial and Senate races that could also shape the presidential election in 2008. But he's not doing it alone.
Fellow pastor Russell Johnson lacks Parsley's charisma, but he has mastered the art of organizing. His group, the Ohio Restoration Project (ORP), recruited nearly 1,800 churches with "Patriot Pastors" and deputized them to draft new "values voters."
The ministers signed 410,000 Ohio homes onto Johnson's mailing list, and the ORP can tap 100,000 prayer warriors through e-mail in a moment's notice. This is more than just a group of voters ready to punch some ballots. According to ORP outreach materials, it is a "mighty army" ready to do battle.
While Johnson reaches white evangelicals and fundamentalists, Parsley appeals to both African Americans and Pentecostals. Together, the two men have forged a political machine ...