Republicans woo evangelical base in bid to recapture the Senate

Religion New Service, David Gibson

(RNS) The Republican National Committee on Friday (June 27) launched its first web-based effort to rally conservative believers behind the party, a sign of how crucial voter turnout will be in this fall’s close-fought midterm elections and an indication that the GOP cannot take its evangelical Christian base for granted.

“This shouldn’t be outreach, this should be who we are — it is who we are,” said Chad Connelly, director of faith engagement for the Republican National Committee and the force behind this new initiative, GOPfaith.com.

Evangelicals, Connelly said, “are our biggest, most reliable voting bloc.”

The problem, however, is that even though evangelicals identify more closely than ever with the GOP, they have not been turning out at the polls in sufficient numbers to carry Republican candidates to victory.

Connelly, a conservative Christian and former chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina, said that as he traveled the country in 2012 working for the election of Mitt Romney, he found that “the faith vote was an afterthought in a lot of places.”

That came back to haunt the party, he said. He cited surveys showing that while 89 million Americans identify as evangelical Christians, just a third of them voted in the 2012 election — and more than a fifth of those voters pulled the lever for President Obama.

RNC chair Reince Priebus set up the RNC’s Faith Engagement group last year, its first-ever strategic initiative aimed exclusively at conservative faith-based voters. Priebus tapped Connelly to head it, and this new get-out-the-vote campaign — “an online home for all of our efforts, all around the country,” as he says in a video on the site.

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