Like a lot of you, I got way too many political calls in the lead-up to the election. In fact, I stopped answering the phone.
I made an exception just days before Nov. 6 when my caller I.D. announced that Ralph Reed was calling. Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and now head of the Faith & Freedom Coalition (FFC), is a longtime Religious Right hack, and I wanted to hear his spiel. I raced to the phone. (In case you’re wondering, I have attended FFC conferences in the past, and that’s why I’m on Reed’s call list.)
Unfortunately, all I heard when I picked up was a woman’s voice ask, “Is this Mr. Boston?” before the line went dead.
The next evening, Reed tried once more. And again I jumped up from the couch (sending an alarmed cat scurrying upstairs) and grabbed the phone before the second ring. This time, I didn’t even hear a voice, just a dial tone.
If this was an example of Reed’s much-vaunted voter outreach, it leaves something to be desired.
The fact is, Reed had a bad night Nov. 6. Months prior to the election, he bragged about his plans to distribute 25 million voter guides and reach out to more than 100,000 churches. An army of right-wing evangelicals, he said, would march into the nation’s voting booths and propel Mitt Romney to the White House.
Sorry, Ralph, but it appears your army went missing in action.
Conservative columnist Steve Deace says Religious Right evangelical turnout actually dropped in two key states – Virginia and Florida.
“The exit polls also said white evangelical turnout in Virginia was down 7% from 2008, and Romney did not improve evangelical turnout in Florida from four years ago while losing about 40,000 to libertarian Gary Johnson,” wrote Deace.
Christianity Today reported that evangelical support for the GOP ticket also dropped in Ohio, the mother of all battleground states. It was only a 3-point drop, but in a tight race that might have made a difference.
“In Ohio, Romney had a more difficult time convincing evangelicals to support him,” reported the magazine. “In 2008, McCain received 71 percent of evangelical votes in Ohio. Exit polls this year don’t show much change, with 68 percent of evangelicals voting for the Republican ticket.”
Just to be clear, Romney got a lot of support from white evangelicals on Tuesday. Something like 78 percent backed him. But Reed didn’t promise to merely help Romney maintain the status quo. He bragged about a dramatic influx of new voters and an aggressive get-out-the-vote strategy to boost Romney’s numbers.
Didn’t happen. As CNN reported, the Republicans’ ground game was, well, not on the ground and not much of a game. Ralph reportedly got $10 million from right-wing fat cats to turn out the vote for Romney. I wonder if they’ll ask for a refund?
Reed did enlist a few right-wing heavy hitters to make robocalls for him. Among them were Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, former Sen. Rick Santorum and that towering Christian leader Donald Trump.
Reed even reportedly persuaded Focus on the Family founder James Dobson to do a robocall. Dobson must have a short memory because the last time he worked with Reed, he ended up being duped into backhandedly aiding casino interests during the infamous Jack Abramoff scandal. (Reed was in that thing up to his neck but escaped serious scrutiny.)
But here’s the thing: In ReedWorld, you never have to say you’re sorry. The day after the election, Reed appeared at a press conference in Washington, D.C., to insist that he had done his job.
“We can’t do the Republican Party’s job for them,” a testy Reed said. “We can’t do the candidates’ job for them.” He blamed the poor GOP showing on “candidate performance issues.”
What about the millions of phone calls Reed promised to make? What about his vow to implement the most technologically sophisticated voter ID and outreach effort the conservative world had ever seen? (Reed told The New York Times in September that his group would call 17.1 million registered voters in 15 key states and that two million people would receive personal visits.) What about his scheme to flood the nation with slanted voter guides?
Reed insists he did all of that stuff. Two hang-up calls later have left me skeptical.
The sad thing is, I suspect Reed doesn’t really care if his outreach wasn’t all it was cranked up to be. After all, he still got paid. And for Ralph, that’s the bottom line in more ways than one.