Among those Egan has spoken to who are thinking of crossing party lines in this election are Jan Martin, a small business owner, city council member, and lifelong Republican. She just can't sit by and watch the business she devoted her lifetime to build and her personal savings melt away in the economic downturn.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — I didn’t hook up people to electronic monitoring devices, nothing to measure leg trickles and blood-sugar spikes in response to off-key talking points.
I had no magic maps, no demographic weighting formulas. I simply went to the heart of one of the fastest-growing, most Republican counties in the land — as red as rib-eye steak on the e-coli side of raw — and wandered aimlessly, like John McCain in Tuesday’s debate.
Here in Colorado Springs — the Vatican of evangelical political power, home to the Air Force Academy and a community where optimism usually matches the sunrise glow at the base of Pikes Peak – you can see what will happen in less than a month.
My friends: it’s not good for Senator McCain.
But even more telling is that a few pastors of conservative churches are toning down the partisanship this year and simply encouraging their parishoners to vote - without recommending which party they should vote for.
“The financial crisis is point number one,” said Pastor Brady Boyd, head of New Life Church, 250,000 square feet of concentrated Christianity. “These attacks against the candidates are just irrelevant right now. Why are you all attacking one another when we’re dying out here?”And here
“The only advice I give is pray, fast and vote, and that can be for any political party,” he said.Dobson, to be sure, won't vote for or recommend Obama or remain even vaguely neutral. But he's boxed himself in by his earlier statement so now he has to sound lukewarm. And that may depress his flock from voting in the numbers he has delivered in the past.
This year, the church hasn’t even heard from the McCain campaign. “What’s happening to us is less allegiance to the Republican party, and more to our core principles,” he said.
Which gets us to the second message to come from Colorado Springs: on election day, there will be no repeat of 2004, when people woke up to the surprise that “moral values” was the leading issue of the campaign, according to exit polls.
Down the road, Focus on the Family is still in a bit a of dither over what to do about John McCain. James Dobson, the founder of what is essentially a political action committee for evangelicals, had said earlier this year he would never vote for McCain. Never. Not under any circumstances.
Now he’s changed his mind. Sort of.
“While I said I will not endorse either candidate this year, I can say I’m now supporting John McCain,” he said in his October newsletter. However, “the senator continues to embrace issues that concern me.”
Still, I remain skeptical about the evangelical vote. I doubt Democrats will ever truly win it because there just are too many hurdles, in terms of social wedge issues to overcome. No party can be all things to all people. But there seems to be a small movement of young evangelicals away from those divisive social issues. And among that group, concern for the environment and social justice are at least as important as abortion and homosexuality.
Here's Egan's summary.
Abortion? Homosexuals? Bill Ayers?How frustrating it must be that the right's old reliables of guns, gays and God might be neutralized and failing them now.
“To be focused on those things at a time when people are hurting would really be to the detriment of families,” said Boyd.
Obama will not win Colorado Springs. John Kerry got just 32 percent of the vote in this county in 2004. But if Obama gets 40 percent – which is what Democrats expect based on the surge of newly registered voters and independents who are following Jan Martin’s path – he will win this state, and the election.
That leaves the circus of Sarah Palin and the sad specter of a snarling John McCain fading as they embrace the slippery bonds of the last century.