John McCain faces a challenge uncommon among GOP presidential candidates: rallying evangelical Christians to vote for him. As the New York Times reports, the McCain campaign is holding meetings with evangelical leaders and blasting them with emails, but many are still taking a wait-and-see approach. And McCain's lack of rapport with religious conservatives was exacerbated by his recent rejection of endorsements of the Rev. John Hagee and the Rev. Rod Parsley.
McCain's rocky history with the movement dates back to the time he famously called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance," and was reinforced by a snub to James Dobson in January 2007. And there's a limit to what McCain can do to win evangelicals without tarnishing his image as a maverick centrist. Robert Novak notes in his column that McCain strategists see rank-and-file evangelicals as less hostile to their candidate than the leaders are, and they'll make the case that "even if the Republican candidate is no day at the beach, his Democratic opponent would be a weekend in hell."