What Michele Bachmann's strategy for evangelical outreach might look like

After Michele Bachmann took the Iowa Straw Poll on August 13, Bachmann’s press secretary Alice Stewart credited Peter Waldron with a job well done, saying, “Michele’s faith is an important part of her life and Peter did a tremendous job with our faith outreach in Iowa. We are fortunate to have him on our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several states.”

Waldron first came into the spotlight in relation to the Bachmann campaign when The Atlantic published a story on August which detailed Waldron’s 2006 deportation from Uganda after 37 days in jail following charges of terrorism. Those charges were dropped but the expose has led to interest in the background of one of Bachmann’s staffer’s responsible for keeping the evangelical vote away from Texas Governor, and fellow evangelical, Rick Perry.

The Bachmann campaign is by far not Waldron’s first. His resume listed on websites now only accessible through Internet archives claims positions in campaigns of Reagan/Bush, Bush/Quayle, Gary Bauer in 2000 and John McCain in 2008. While it is not clear what Waldron did for other candidates, he provided a detailed look at his strategy for Gary Bauer in 2000. Bauer had worked in the Reagan administration and clearly identified with evangelicals and the religious right. Just after Waldron left a failed youth program in the St. Petersburg area of FL, he went to work for Bauer, with the aim of securing the GOP nomination. Perhaps, Waldron used elements of this plan in Iowa.

Bauer’s campaign never caught on but the strategy mapped out by Waldron involved a good showing in the same Iowa straw poll event that his new boss, Michele Bachmann, recently won.  In 2000, Bauer took fourth place in the poll which, according to Waldron, inspired some momentum:

The August 14, 1999 Straw Poll was a good test of the Iowa organization and an opportunity to lay the foundation for success in the Iowa Caucuses. The strong showing gave the campaign a positive boost going into the final quarter of the year. The Ames success was built on the deployment of several key tactics, all of which can be used for the Caucuses.

One of those key tactics was the “Deployment of a concentrated church outreach program to recruit votes in sectors not being touched by other candidates.” Apparently, they used churches for political organizing:

One of the most successful aspects of the Ames effort was the collection and use of Evangelical church lists. Through the course of the Ames effort, over 30,000 such names were collected; they yielded over 600 committed Bauer supporters. Among such Evangelical church-goers, the candidate ran second to George Bush as the first choice for the GOP nomination. More importantly, that second place standing improved substantially when mail was used to raise the candidate’s I.D. and favorable rating.

Waldron’s 2011 straw poll strategy may have looked like 2000 but the newer version was more successful. So successful, that candidate Bachmann wants to expand his role in other states. Waldron’s Bauer plan provides some insight into what such an expansion might look like. Here are the keys to a successful evangelical campaign outreach:

The key components to a successful Evangelical organization program are the following:

Intercession

The candidate needs prayer and must develop a prayer network in each state. The prayer network secures the candidate’s position as a “legitimate” Evangelical and a member of the faith-based community. All people of faith respect prayer and its supernatural power. Everyone can pray and each person must feel a part of the candidate’s effort to receive the nomination. Prayer does not require money, fame, and position of influence or power to achieve a sense of importance.

Identification

The Campaign must identify the individual spheres of influence in the state. Sub-divisions include Congressional districts; metropolitan areas; churches (large to small); para-church organizations; minority congregations; elected civic leaders from the faith community; pastors; etc.

Mail surveys (if time permits) and telephone calls permit the Campaign to identify supporters from within available lists. ID phone calls are invaluable to the overall strategy to deliver voters to the polls.

Individual

The central organizing unit is the “Church Contact.” The Church Contact is the candidate’s local organizer within a congregation. The Church Contact’s primary functions are to recruit, maintain, and deliver supporters to Gary Bauer. His/her job performance is enhanced by distributing campaign literature to family and friends, answering questions regarding the candidate, making announcements regarding Gary Bauer’s scheduled appearances, and collecting names and addresses (church directories). Registering new voters is another critical task performed by the Church Contact.

The Church Contact becomes the critical mass around which support for Gary Bauer grows concentrically. The Church Contact helps identify others within different congregations who support the candidate and will volunteer to be a Church Contact in that congregation. The challenge to the State Director (or local church coordinator in metropolitan areas) is to connect all the Church Contacts/congregations within a community. When the individual parts of the Church Contact program are connected the cumulative results is the beginning of a “movement.”

Inventory

The Campaign must collect and maintain accurate names and addresses of current Evangelical Protestants in the targeted State. The lists are sub-divided into leadership, para-church, churches, pastors, and lay people. The Campaign is well served when it has representation in each of the Churches.

Information

Communication to one’s database is critical to recruitment, maintenance, and growth. Timely and effective delivery of material into the hands of one’s constituency is imperative. Political literature is the ammo of a successful campaign. One cannot mail too much. Mail provides direction, recruitment material, and motivates one’s constituency.

The Evangelical community, in particular, and the broader faith-based community, in general, is a sub-culture with its own value-system, vocabulary, and vision for the future. Within this “sub-culture” is a distinct communication system that circumvents the main-line media, establishment elite, and high-profile political leadership.

Arranging for appearances on Evangelical broadcasts on religious radio and television networks is equally important. There are hundreds of call-in talk shows on Christian radio and television. An earnest effort must be made to arrange opportunities for the candidate to address his base via religious broadcasting.

Involvement

The faith-based community wants to help. A message within the context of the Evangelical belief system is volunteerism and service. There must be a sincere effort to develop volunteer organization within each State. Each person brings three gifts to bear on the candidate’s success – time, talent, and treasure. Each State Director must set-up a volunteer program to cultivate the time and talent.

Staff

A critical component of the Church Outreach program is the hiring of a statewide Church Outreach Coordinator in each Tier I state. The Church Outreach Coordinator must be hired by local state leadership in consultation with the national Church Outreach team, and should be trained by the national team. All necessary staff must be in place by September 15, and all training must be completed by October 1.

Conclusion

The strategy for success outlined herein is dependent upon extraordinary grassroots organizing in Tiers I, II and III; appropriate levels of message mail, phone banks and earned/paid media; and the candidate’s grassroots appeal as demonstrated in personal appearances and the rise and fall of the candidate’s competition.

My guess is if you are involved in any kind of an evangelical church in South Carolina, you will be getting a call from Waldron or someone associated with the Bachmann campaign. Clearly, his strategy relies heavily on bringing out the evangelical vote. Currently, a real problem for this plan is Rick Perry. As a fellow evangelical, Perry is competing for the same voters. Perhaps, that is why Waldron likened Perry to King Saul and Bachmann to King David in a recent description of the two, saying that Bachmann has been anointed by God. Saul was initially popular and was attractive to the masses, whereas David was a less likely but eventually more successful King.  Such imagery fits right in with the Waldron plan:

The Evangelical community, in particular, and the broader faith-based community, in general, is a sub-culture with its own value-system, vocabulary, and vision for the future. Within this “sub-culture” is a distinct communication system that circumvents the main-line media, establishment elite, and high-profile political leadership.

Waldron’ analogy might be questionable, but, if it catches on, could be good politics.

UPDATE: Waldron is deploying the strategy in FL now, appearing with Bachmann at a Baptist church there. The write up mentions Waldron’s FL youth basketball program but is a little kind in the description.

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  • David Blakeslee

    Here is the charge in the Atlantic Magazine:

    One Ugandan paper alleged he was working with Congolese rebel militia members to capture Joseph Kony, the leader of the Ugandan guerrilla group the Lord’s Resistance Army, and claim a $1.7 million bounty on his head being offered by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but that planning for the operation was botched, leading police to Waldron’s house and the guns. But the Kampala Monitor reported that the inspector general of police “told a news conference Waldron was suspected of links to a group in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and ‘planned to set up a political party here based on Christian principles.’”

    It is difficult to judge how a government which is endorsing the death penalty for gays makes accusations about terrorism for Waldron.

    Perhaps their judgement of both is distorted in order to make such decisions?

    Readers may want to view this video at PBS:

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/episodes/lords-children/video-full-episode/2188/

    Warren, do you know what paper is cited here?:

    One Ugandan paper alleged he was working with Congolese rebel militia members to capture Joseph Kony, the leader of the Ugandan guerrilla group the Lord’s Resistance Army

  • Pingback: A Peter Waldron Sighting in Iowa: Spreading the Gospel of Michele Bachmann — Warren Throckmorton


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