Rice sociologist calls McCain's pick 'strategically brilliant'
Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, believes that Sen. John's McCain's decision to pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a strategically brilliant development. Lindsay is author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. I spoke with Lindsay this morning.
"The only dirt I know on [Palin] is that there's some kind of indication that she was using political pressure to get [her ex-brother-in-law] fired. She has a lot of appeal for evangelicals. She's pro-life, that's something that's important to evangelicals. No Republican has ever won the White House without evangelicals."
"If [McCain] had chosen a pro-choice candidate, like Ridge or Lieberman, [evangelicals] would have voted McCain, but they wouldn't have mobilized around him. [Palin] is pro-life, she was involved in [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] growing up, she has the right background. Her child has Down syndrome. That shows not only a commitment to pro-life, but to living it out. That will be important for evangelical supporters of McCain. I think evangelicals honestly are probably relieved that McCain chose a pro-life candidate. In my research, the reason so many of these leaders were Republican was because of abortion."
"The real liability McCain faces is that he's built his campaign against Obama on the issue of experience. Here's a first term governor who was mayor of a small town in Alaska. Not a lot of executive experience, but McCain may be able to say there are different elements in the campaign that are important."
"I don't know enough about [Palin] to say if she's a perfect candidate. She doesn't have the national profile that Mike Huckabee has. It is possible that McCain can introduce her to evangelicals in a way that's winsome in the next couple of days."
Is she an evangelical?
"I don't know what her church attendance is like. She's been involved with groups that cater to evangelicals, but I don't know if she is or not."
What about Sen. Obama's religious outreach? Do you think it's working?
"I think he's very smart in terms of religious outreach. He's got some great people working on his staff working on that front. The thing about Senator Obama's campaign is that he does not have to win large segments of the evangelical votes. All he has to do is carve off some of votes in certain places. The cosmopolitan vote is the one most up for grabs."
"A cosmopolitan evangelical is someone who is less interested in converting the country or taking the country back for Christ; they are interested in seeing their faith as attractive. They're less prone to see the evangelical subculture as their primary point of reference. It's the cosmopolitan evangelicals that [McCain] has to win over in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida."