- John McCain - religion
Jonathan Falwell is the senior pastor of the conservative megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia originally founded by his father Jerry. With more than 20,000 church members, a large media outreach and a security service worthy of a president, Falwell is at the head of a powerful congregation. His word can have a direct influence on many votes.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain needs these votes; evangelical Christians represent 15 to 20% of the Republican electorate. McCain might not exactly be the embodiment of the ideal conservative Christian candidate, but for now he has Falwell’s support. Falwell doesn’t seem to be holding grudges against the Republican candidate even though eight years ago McCain accused his father of being an “agent of intolerance”. Apparently, he let this one slide, but his church now expects McCain to show some goodwill.
The Thomas Road Baptist Church is the birthplace of the “Moral Majority” movement whose intent is to help conservative politicians be elected. Lacking the support of the Ultra Christians in the 2000 election, George W. Bush’s winning margin was extremely narrow.
Most of the congregation will follow the pastor’s instructions, but they are also much more openly critical of what they believe are McCain’s shortcomings. Praising the lord is what triggers enthusiasm here, not the upcoming presidential elections. If he wants to secure the conservative Christian electorate, McCain won’t have much leeway when it comes to choosing his vice-president at the Republican Convention this September.