Demastus represents a growing movement of evangelical pastors who are jumping into the electoral fray as never before, preaching political engagement from the pulpit as they mobilize for the 2012 election.
This new activism has substantial muscle behind it: a cadre of experienced Christian organizers and some of the conservative movement’s most generous donors, who are setting up technologically sophisticated operations to reach pastors and their congregations in battleground states.
The passion for politics stems from a collision of historic forces, including heightened local organizing around issues of abortion and gay marriage and a view of the country’s debt as a moral crisis that violates biblical instruction. Another major factor: both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Bachmann, leading contenders for the GOP nomination, are openly appealing to evangelical Christian voters as they blast President Barack Obama’s leadership.
Both Republican and Democratic strategists say that pastors have already helped unleash an army of voters to shape the GOP primary contests in Iowa and South Carolina, two states with large numbers of conservative Christians. They are making plans to do the same in states that are even more important to next year’s general election. Those include Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Virginia and Colorado, where evangelical voters make up about a quarter of the electorate and their participation could greatly aid Republicans.
“The Christian activist right is the largest, best organized and, I believe, the most powerful force in American politics today,” said Rob Stein, a Democratic strategist who recently provided briefings on the constituency to wealthy donors on the left. “No other political group comes even close.”