December 9, 2010
As far as I can tell, Sarah Palin doesn't appear with many religious leaders very often. It seems, however, that she has developed a special relationship with the Grahams. She will visit Haiti this weekend with Franklin Graham as part of his Samaritan's Purse outreach, according to the Washington Post.
Gunfire and barricades were reported Thursday in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and the U.S. State Department reissued a travel warning to the country and recommended against nonessential travel.
Graham said he appreciates Palin's willingness to visit Haiti during such troubled times.
"I believe Gov. Palin will be a great encouragement to the people of Haiti and to the organizations, both government and private, working so hard to provide desperately needed relief," he said in a statement.
In early 2009, she also traveled with Franklin Graham to Alaska to distribute food. She also visited Billy Graham, who recently turned 92. Right after the 2008 election, I spoke with Billy Graham's daughter, asking the longtime registered Democrat had any preference for the candidates at the time. Gigi Graham said he was very fond of Palin. "He's a typical man. I don't care if he's 90 years old, he thought that she is so pretty," she said. "He loves a pretty woman."
Earlier this year, Palin defended remarks Franklin Graham made about Islam.
Andy Barr of Politico suggests that the appearance in Haiti with Graham could help her image among evangelicals.
The Haiti trip could serve two distinct political purposes for Palin.
First, it provides an opportunity to expand her image and policy portfolio beyond her limited image as a darling of the tea party movement.
Second, she'll be able to better establish her claim to evangelical voters if she chooses to seek the Republican presidential nomination. Evangelicals overwhelmingly supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, one of Palin's potential 2012 rivals, in the early 2008 GOP primaries and caucuses.
Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, is extremely popular among evangelicals. But he has at times found himself in hot water over his comments, especially regarding Islam.
However, Palin has not done the same kind of religious outreach that we saw President Obama do before the 2008 election. As far as I know, she hasn't done any interviews with Christian media about her latest book and seems to prefer Fox News, TLC, Facebook, and Twitter for her outlets.
Former President Bush openly appealed to evangelicals during his 2000 presidential candidate and met with them while in office. Since his new memoir came out, Bush has appeared at Saddleback Church and on Focus on the Family radio, though that may be an attempt to sell books. Evangelicals appeared to be less excited about John McCain, but he met with the Grahams, Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, and other leaders.
What do you think? Does she have the same kind of appeal to evangelicals as other potential candidates?