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Bush's Big Priority: Energize Conservative Christian Base
Unusual Strategy Plays Down Importance of Swing
Vote As Demographics Shift A Coordinator in Each Church

By JACKIE CALMES and JOHN HARWOOD Staff Reporters of
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL August 30, 2004

http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB109382546485804152,00.html

WEST CHESTER, Ohio -- Frank York's mission for George
W. Bush began in May, registering voters at the
2,200-member Tri-County Baptist Church he attends here.

By June, the 66-year-old campaign volunteer figured he
was getting the congregation covered. So he branched
out, knowing he could find like-minded voters virtually
any place in Cincinnati's exploding suburbs, a magnet
for Christian conservatives. He even took his
registration clipboard to the "Dog Fest," a popular
canine carnival, despite his aversion to dogs.

On Saturday he knocked on doors in a new subdivision
and yesterday, he tucked a few registration forms into
his Bible before heading to church. There he signed up
a half-dozen remaining prospects. So far Mr. York has
registered 604 voters -- and he won't quit until Ohio's
Oct. 2 registration deadline.

"Some friends ask, 'How can you support a
Republican?' " says the 66-year-old former General
Motors Corp. autoworker and longtime union member. "I
say, 'I put moral and Christian values ahead of union
values.' "

In the tight 2004 race, no group is more important to
Mr. Bush than evangelicals and Christian conservatives.
As Republicans gather for their national convention in
New York starting today, these religious conservatives
are at the heart of a Bush campaign that is turning
traditional general-election strategy on its head.
Instead of focusing on undecided swing voters, Bush
advisers are putting top priority on maximizing voter
turnout among conservative constituencies already
disposed to back the president.

Behind the new strategy lies the story of a changing
America, and of a campaign scrambling to keep up.

The nation's face is being reshaped in ways that aren't
helpful to the Bush effort. The Hispanic population is
exploding in size, and Hispanic voters are heavily
Democratic. Other nonwhite ethnic groups are also
growing. If all demographic groups split their votes
this fall as they did in 2000, the Bush team estimates
that Mr. Bush would finish with threemillion fewer
votes than Democratic candidate John Kerry. In 2000,
Mr. Bush lost to Al Gore by 500,000 votes in the
popular vote. The growth in Hispanics largely accounts
for the bigger gap.

Other trends also put bumps in Mr. Bush's road. Younger
voters who grew up in the era of Bill Clinton rather
than Ronald Reagan seem harder for Republicans to
reach. Also, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg notes
that birth and demographic trends make them the most
diverse generation yet: Just 65% of them are white,
compared to 90% of seniors 65 and older. Early on,
these youngest voters were the most supportive of the
war in Iraq of any age group. Now they are the least.

Among women in 2000, Mr. Bush was 12 points behind Mr.
Gore, but as president he seemed to narrow the gender
gap after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Republicans
spoke hopefully of "security moms." Yet polls show the
gap has widened again. Meanwhile, Democrats are
mounting an unprecedented effort to register unmarried
women -- an estimated 20% of the electorate that tends
to be less educated, less affluent and
Democrat-leaning.

Many Arab-Americans and Muslims, who once seemed an
emerging Republican constituency, are upset over Iraq.
Among senior citizens, Mr. Bush had hoped that with the
new Medicare prescription drug law, he'd more than make
up the four percentage points by which he trailed Mr.
Gore among voters 60 and older. Instead, polls show
roughly half of seniors oppose the law, and a majority
oppose him.

These are the headwinds that help explain Mr. Bush's
unconventional strategy. Since the advent of television
brought presidential candidates into voters' living
rooms, the general-election campaigns of both major
parties have been targeted toward winning swing voters
at the political center. Now, more than any modern
campaign, the Bush effort, led by White House adviser
Karl Rove, has downplayed that goal in favor of a drive
to wring more votes from the president's committed core
of supporters. Mr. Rove calls it a "mobilization
election."

Viewers of this week's Republican convention won't hear
much about the strategy. For the broad national
television audience, the party is showcasing moderates
such as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Some party strategists, accustomed to the more
traditional courtship of suburban swing voters,
consider Mr. Rove's approach risky. Playing to
conservative Christians and other elements of the
Republican base could alienate wavering voters such as
Jews who are attracted by the president's strong
support for Israel. One of Mr. Bush's initiatives that
might turn away moderates is his embrace of a
constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Yet the math behind the strategy is powerful. Some 195
million Americans were eligible to vote in 2000. Only
105 million actually did, splitting virtually evenly
between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore. If the views of
nonvoters resembled those of voters, as opinion surveys
suggest they did, there were as many as 45 million
potential voters for both Messrs. Bush and Gore who
stayed home.

Among the group of latent Bush supporters, the
president's strategists have focused particularly on
white Christian conservatives. Exit polls of actual
2000 voters show conservative Christians making up 14%
of the electorate, but Republican Party surveys suggest
that the same group is typically closer to 19% of
voters.

>From that, Mr. Rove concludes that some five million
conservative Christians failed to turn out four years
ago. Because 82% of those who voted backed Mr. Bush,
the nonvoters represented a missed opportunity in the
range of four million votes.

Moreover, Christian conservatives are part of one big
demographic trend that is working in Republicans' favor
-- the rapid development of "exurbs" beyond the suburbs
of big cities. Married families with children, many of
them conservative Christians, are flocking to these
exurbs but are often slow to register and vote.

"It takes them time to get settled, pick the right
grocery store, the right church, and then get
registered to vote," says Mr. Rove. "These are places
we've got a lot of natural support that we've got to
energize and turn out."

Such regions include fast-growing Lake and Osceola
counties outside Orlando, Fla.; Minnesota's Scott
County outside the Twin Cities; St. Croix County
outside Eau Claire, Wis.; and Deschutes County around
Bend, Ore.

In Ohio, the "Tri-County" region north of Cincinnati --
Hamilton, Butler and Warren counties -- is key to Mr.
Rove's strategy. It's where Mr. York, the retired auto
worker, is doing his registration work. "What used to
be fields upon fields is now houses upon houses," says
Mr. York's wife, Dorcas, 64, who often joins him going
door-to-door. "We also have growing families constantly
upgrading. They see what we're doing as a community
service -- the last thing on their minds seems to be
their voter registration."

Warren County, which sits between Cincinnati and Dayton
and increasingly is home to high-earners who work in
the cities, is No. 52 on the Census Bureau's list of
100 fastest-growing counties. It's the sort of place
another Republican campaign would take for granted: 95%
white, dominated by families with children, with a
median household income of about $60,000 -- nearly 40%
above the national average. Warren County's 2000 vote
went more than 2-to-1 for Mr. Bush. Yet, mindful of the
need to get that vote out in big numbers, the president
stopped in the county seat of Lebanon in May on a bus
tour through Ohio, which is the one of the most
important swing states targeted by both the Bush and
Kerry campaigns.

Mr. Kerry isn't seriously contesting Mr. Bush for the
votes of white evangelicals or other conservatives,
since his chances of winning significant support are
slim. Instead, his campaign is seeking to win Ohio and
other battleground states by exploiting anxieties over
Iraq and the economy to rally blacks, union members and
suburban moderates to the Democratic ticket.

Christian conservative churches have become prominent
features of many exurban areas, and their members tend
to like Mr. Bush's positions such as his support of a
gay-marriage ban. In Warren County new churches are
going up and pews are full at a range of denominations,
among them Catholics, Church of God, Churches of
Christ, and Evangelical Free Church.

Warren County Republican Party Chairman Tom Grossman, a
lawyer at Cincinnati's Taft, Stettinius & Hollister,
says the nondenominational Grace Chapel he attends has
a voter-registration table every Sunday. "It's not
sponsored by the Republican Party," he says, "but we
make sure it's there." Also, he says, "In every major
church we've got coordinators identified."

A campaign document earlier this year spelled out
coordinators' duties. Among them: By July 31, send
church directories to campaign headquarters; by Aug.
15, "talk to your Church's seniors or 20-30 something
group about Bush/Cheney '04;" by Sept. 26, "All
nonregistered church members must be registered to
vote;" and, by the Sunday before Election Day,
"Distribute voter guides in your church."

Stoking Christian conservatives' energies is a fight to
place on Ohio's Nov. 2 ballot a proposed state
constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages or
civil unions. To activists' chagrin, the Republican
Party hasn't gotten involved. But the party is likely
to gain anyway as supporters of the amendment register
voters for their cause. Phil Burress, whose
Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values
organization is the driving force for the amendment,
estimates it has produced 40,000 registrations.

Lori Viars, a mother of two in Warren County, is both
volunteering for the Bush campaign and collecting
signatures to get the same-sex marriage ban on the
ballot. "I'm 43, and I honestly think this is the most
important election of my life," she says. "The next
president will probably choose up to four Supreme Court
justices."

In Butler County, the Yorks are taking a break this
week to watch the Republican convention. Then they'll
be back to the streets, and to the Tri-County Baptist
church. Once again, Frank will post his simple
"Register to Vote" sign at the reception desk. He
doesn't urge a vote for Mr. Bush, because a partisan
operation would jeopardize the church's tax-exempt
status. Pastor Lew Davis reminds congregants from the
pulpit to register but doesn't endorse anyone. He
readily identifies himself as a Republican in a
conversation after services.

In addition to giving the Republican Party the
filled-in registration forms they collect, Mr. and Mrs.
York also hand over the names of those who are
undecided about Mr. Bush for follow-up. Most hesitate
over the war in Iraq, the Yorks say. "I said to this
one young man, 'You know what your values are. Those
will guide you,' " Mrs. York recalls. "He's going to
come over."

Write to Jackie Calmes at [EMAIL PROTECTED] and
John Harwood at [EMAIL PROTECTED]
URL for this article:
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB109382546485804152,00.html

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CTRL is a discussion & informational exchange list. Proselytizing propagandic
screeds are unwelcomed. Substance—not soap-boxing—please!   These are
sordid matters and 'conspiracy theory'—with its many half-truths, mis-
directions and outright frauds—is used politically by different groups with
major and minor effects spread throughout the spectrum of time and thought.
That being said, CTRLgives no endorsement to the validity of posts, and
always suggests to readers; be wary of what you read. CTRL gives no
credence to Holocaust denial and nazi's need not apply.

Let us please be civil and as always, Caveat Lector.
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