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The Guardian/UK

Preying on the Right

With her eyes on 2012, Sarah Palin is aiming at the same evangelical base that carried George Bush to the White House

Sarah Wildman

Sarah Palin wants a shot at the top. I don't mean Palin for Pres 2008. I mean 2012. She's been tacking hard to the right, amping up her fiery evangelical credibility factor, paying homage to those that would back a reaction candidate against a first-term Obama administration, and drawing differences between herself and her flagging running mate.

Palin has taken her evangelical pandering a step further, calling in to James Dobson's radio program and gushing to the host. The founder of conservative religious nonprofit Focus on the Family, Dobson is a key player in the evangelical movement who way back in January vowed not to support McCain - a man he didn't feel was true enough to the Christian cause. He was brought back around to the ticket when Governor Palin came on board. David Brody, senior correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, called Sarah Palin's talk yesterday with Dobson the Evangelical's "Caching" moment. "I can feel the power of prayer and that strength that is provided through our prayer warriors across this nation and I so appreciate it," Governor Palin told Dobson:

Dr Dobson you have been on the forefront of all of this, on all of this good for so many years and your reward is going to be in heaven because I know that you take a lot of shots also but please know that on our end as kind of outsiders looking in at what you have accomplished all these years, if it were not for you so many of us would be missing the boat in terms of hearing the message and understanding what it is that we can do to further the cause of life and of ethics in our nation, those things that we should be engaged in. We owe so much to you.

It wasn't Palin's first pitch to the evangelicals of late. Panicked by their drop in poll numbers, the McCain campaign has clearly given her free range to pander to her natural constituency, hoping to flush those voters to the polls in 12 days. The big forgotten news of the weekend was Palin's visit to the Christian Broadcasting Network. For those who can't guess from the name - CBN is exactly what it sounds like: Christian news for Americans who want their news filtered through a primarily evangelical light.

Asked about her support for a federal constitutional amendment making marriage a union between "one man" and "one woman", Palin threw her full support behind the ban, despite McCain's softer position and her own position on abortion, which is that states should decide on the issue. Newsweek points out today a list of other ways Palin has pushed herself away from McCain.

Moving away from her ticket, Palin explained her position. "In my own state, I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman," Palin said. "I wish on a federal level that that's where we would go because I don't support gay marriage. I'm not going to be out there judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgment telling what they can and can't do, should and should not do, but I certainly can express my own opinion here and take actions that I believe would be best for traditional marriage and that's casting my votes and speaking up for traditional marriage that, that instrument that it's the foundation of our society is that strong family and that's based on that traditional definition of marriage, so I do support that."

Was this to reassure those who were confused by her quasi-gay friendly comments during her VP debate? She looked so uncomfortable that night, backed into a corner that would have required her either to really articulate a position that gives gay men and lesbians second class citizenship, and thus turn off the majority of Americans, or turn away from the evangelicals she is trying to shore up both for November 4, 2008 and for the 2012 primaries.

Younger evangelicals actually aren't nearly as rabidly bigoted about their gay neighbours as their elders are. But older evangelicals have made this a bread and butter issue for the last five years. The entire premise is nasty - an effort to turn back all those changes creeping across the country by overriding them. That means the recent decision in Connecticut would be rendered as null and void as Mayor Gavin Newsom's efforts in San Francisco some years back before California went the way of Massachusetts. (Those Californian advances are also peril, if the insidious Proposition 8 passes on November 4.)

For a pol who likes the press as much as she doesn't, these "spontaneous" chats with the Christian journalists of America read like a run to the hard right of Obama - in 2012 as much as 2008. Let's hope the hoopla around her suddenly pricey clothing habits ends that dream now.

Sarah Wildman is a senior correspondent for the American Prospect and a contributor to the New York Times

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