VEEPSTAKES: Could Tim Pawlenty Bring 30 Million Evangelicals Back to the GOP?
Back in June,The Minnesota Independent explored the question of what type of Vice Presidential candidate Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty would make, and in particular whether Pawlenty could bring evangelical voters out to vote for John McCain.
Although McCain has won the GOP nomination, some evangelical leaders such as James Dobson have expressed that they will not vote for him because he is too “liberal.” Can Pawlenty bridge this gap?
Here are some excerpts from the story:
Pawlenty became an evangelical Christian in the mid-1980s when he married Mary Anderson, a member of Wooddale Church, an evangelical megachurch in Eden Prairie. The couple were married by the Rev. Leith Anderson, a senior pastor at Wooddale since 1977. Anderson happens to be the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization representing more than 30 million American evangelicals. In fact, Anderson had been the president of NAE from 1999 to 2003, and became the current president after the Rev. Ted Haggard’s troubles involving methamphetamines and gay sex forced him out in 2006.
In 2003, Pawlenty and Wooddale hosted about 1,600 evangelical leaders from around the country for a two-day convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. Pawlenty praised the work of President Bush and his faith-based initiatives, a program that funnels federal funds to religious charities. “If you’re going to change destructive behavior, you’ve got to change hearts,” said Pawlenty, according to the Star Tribune. “Governors can’t do that. We hope you can do that in a God-honoring manner that meets the challenges of our day.”
In 2005, Pawlenty created the Governor’s Council on Faith and Community Service Initiatives, a Minnesota version of Bush’s White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. Also in 2005, Pawlenty began National Day of Prayer services at the State Capitol, a move that garnered significant praise from evangelicals and social conservatives. In fact, annual Minnesota’s Day of Prayer activities, at which Pawlenty is a regular speaker, are exclusively evangelical, due to a takeover of such events by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson.
Pawlenty toed the line for the Family Council and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life in the 2008 session when he vetoed legislation to fund stem cell research and legislation to allow cities to implement domestic partner benefits. He even vetoed a bill authored by a fellow Republican, Rep. Kathy Tinglestad. Her bill would formalize the processes involved in surrogate motherhood, but because anti-choice groups said it didn’t ban abortion, Pawlenty vetoed the bill.
Pawlenty courts the religious right in Minnesota albeit on the down-low. He’s made appearances at anti-abortion rallies, and was a featured speaker at the Minnesota Family Council’s Legislative Insights Luncheon in early 2007. A member of that group asked him, “Do you think you would have won without the faith-based vote?” Pawlenty quickly responded “No,” and was greeted with laughter and applause.
Will McCain pick him as the VP Candidate? We’ll know in a few hours.
Read the full newspaper story at The Minnesota Independent
Thanks to Pastordan for posting a link to this on his blog “Street Prophets.”