In 2008 Barck Obama didn’t win over the hearts and minds of people of faith–it wasn’t necessary. The President’s campaign did what it had to, close the gap, taking some of the votes away from a traditional GOP voting bloc a bit as part of the 2008 victory.
The upcoming 2012 presidential election is to be much closer than 2008 therefore every vote counts–but according to the AP, the president might be giving back to the GOP the inroads made into “religious voters” last time around.
The Democratic National Committee is promising a repeat performance in 2012. But some religious leaders and scholars who backed Obama in 2008 are skeptical. They say the Democrats have, through neglect and lack of focus, squandered the substantial gains they made with religious moderates and worry it will hurt Obama in a tight race against Republican Mitt Romney.
The DNC’s faith outreach director, the Rev. Derrick Harkins, said the party has strong relationships with religious groups. But as evidence of their concerns, critics point to the public debate that followed Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, a decision the president said was based in part on his Christian faith.
No prominent clergyperson was sent out as a surrogate by the administration to explain the religious argument in favor of same-sex relationships. Instead, the main religious voices connected to Obama in the public sphere were the ministers who serve as his personal spiritual advisers and generally oppose gay marriage. Those ministers who were willing to comment – many weren’t – said they were struggling with Obama’s decision.
That decision added fuel to the fire of religious groups/voters already suspicious of the President because of his administration’s disregard for the Catholic Church’s first amendment rights.
“I think there is a viable religious left who can be persuaded by a carefully articulated religious argument, but no one is making it,” said Valerie Cooper, a religious studies professor at the University of Virginia and Obama supporter. “I’m concerned that the administration has not followed through on the promise of 2008.”
Cooper recently attended a White House briefing for academics on the work of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She and other religious scholars say they understand that pressing issues such as the economy had to be the priority. Still, they argued more could have been done to broaden the party’s tent.
“I get frustrated when I talk to evangelical friends or students and they ask, `How can you be a Christian and a Democrat?'” Cooper said.
And its not just the Christians, recent polls have shown that Obama will continue to win the Jewish but by a much smaller margin that 2008’s 78%.
The President’s reelection campaign is like a leaky bucket. Every time a voting bloc leaves the coalition that got him elected the campaign desperately tries to plug the leak. Even when the leak is plugged and the bloc is brought back into the fold, the bucket springs another leak. His chances in 2012 depend on plugging enough of the correct holes, in other words the President is playing defense, and that is a great way to lose.