For Mark Beliles and other conservative Christian voters, the presidential race began in earnest when Republican John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Beliles, the pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Charlottesville, was supporting McCain but not campaigning for him. His planned vote for McCain was intended as a vote against Barack Obama.
Then, McCain choose Palin, the governor of Alaska.
“Now, I’m going to volunteer and give a lot more,” he said.
Beliles, 52, was among about 2,000 conservatives who gathered in Washington on Friday for the annual Values Voter Summit organized by the Family Research Council. The council opposes abortion rights and promotes family and marriage.
When McCain spoke at the summit last year, he had to convince attendees that his views reflected their beliefs. This year, he wasn’t on the program, but he impressed and energized summit participants with his choice of Palin.
“The day before Palin, it was a job,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List in Arlington County. The group supports women in politics who oppose abortion rights. “The day after Palin, it was a passion.”
In Palin, conservatives have found a champion of their beliefs and causes. They see her as religious, against abortion rights and against gay marriage.
“She has based her life on the word of God,” said Barb Rollins, 62, of Aiken, S.C. “She’s made some difficult decisions and decided to go God’s way. She doesn’t compromise her values.”
It’s not just McCain’s choice of Palin that has energized Ronald Gilbert of Scottsville. He said McCain’s recent appearances and speeches have illustrated that he will uphold conservative values.
“For the first time last week I made a donation to the campaign,” said Gilbert, 61. “Now I’m looking for ways to volunteer and do something. McCain has done an excellent job of defining who he is and people like me . . . are energized and enthused.”
While the summit was open to all political affiliations, it draws a largely conservative Republican crowd.
Filed under: Presidentual Race 2008