Democrats Highlight Their Religion in Voter Outreach

September 18, 2008

Author: Douglas Belkin

Source: The Wall Street Journal

With her husband, a Baptist minister, standing at the back of the room, Judy Baker delivered a stump speech here last month with references to her faith, her God and the moral imperative of the policies she champions.

Though her speech had flourishes right out of the GOP playbook, Mrs. Baker isn't a Republican. The two-term state representative is a Democrat who supports abortion rights, and her signature issue is accessible health care. And she is on the forefront of a Democratic push to attract values voters -- a job made tougher by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, an evangelical Christian, to be his running mate.

"My faith is part of who I am," Mrs. Baker said. It is also something the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is banking on -- to the tune of the $1 million they are investing in her campaign.

Building on limited success in 2006, Democratic congressional candidates across the country are pushing into territory long held by the Christian right. They are advertising on religious radio stations, posting homilies on campaign blogs and incorporating religious revelations in stump speeches.

The push is part of an effort that prompted a steady stream of religious leaders to center stage at the Democratic National Convention last month in Denver and comes as presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama champions faith-based initiatives. In 2006, the Democrats "microtargeted" a few thousand likely voters who might be responsive to the party's message based on their theology and ideology. This year they expect to identify and target nearly seven million.