May 24, 2010
Where's the Democratic Faith Outreach?
The Democrats were all about faith in the 2008 election, sponsoring official faith-based panels at the Democratic National Convention and nominating a candidate who spoke openly about his faith. In contrast, the Republicans held one unadvertised prayer breakfast with muffins and plastic cups of orange juice in a renovated bar-turned-church, and their nominee rarely spoke about his faith.
Leading up to the 2010 elections, however, the Democratic National Committee's faith staff of more than a half-dozen has shifted to one part-time employee, Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post reports.
[Former Virginia Governor Tim] Kaine, who chairs the DNC, and other party leaders say the decrease in paid faith staff reflects a change in how the party does outreach -- not a shift away from religious voters. The party, at the behest of the White House, has reshaped how it reaches out to all constituency groups and has opted to expand its network of grass-roots volunteers and shrink its national staff of organizers who were in the past broken down by race and religion.
Although a party spokesman said its faith outreach staff had been dismantled when Obama took office, Kaine said that a staff member who also does African American outreach has been assigned to oversee faith as well but had been on a medical leave. The party will be hiring more faith staff and crafting a faith outreach plan as the fall election season gets closer, said Kaine, who rejected the idea that the effort was diminishing on his watch.
Boorstein reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $82,000 on faith outreach in 2008, but a spokesperson couldn't name expenses for 2009 or 2010. The Eleison Group, which does faith consulting, worked on more than 40 campaigns in 2008, but it has no 2010 national campaign contracts right now.