PR team: Faithful Democrats (Chicago) and The 2050 Group (Washington)
Campaign: Launch of FaithfulDemocrats.com
Duration: August-December 2006
The Republican Party in recent years has often sought to portray itself as a "party of faith" and, in recent national elections, has successfully mobilized large blocs of Christian voters.
A group of prominent Democratic campaign strategists - including former Democratic National Committee chairman David Wilhelm, Common Good Strategies founder Mara Vanderslice, and former White House press secretary under President Clinton Mike McCurry - sought to encourage greater involvement in politics by the Democratic-leaning Christians in the US. With a focus on the recent midterm elections, the group formed an online community, Faithful Democrats.
With the Web site serving as an online gathering area for Democrats to make donations to candidates, debate hot-button political issues, and more, Faithful Democrats worked in the lead-up to the November 7 midterm elections to encourage greater discussion about the importance of religion and politics.
"We helped educate people that not only is it OK to be religious and Christian and apply that to your political beliefs, but there's a home for that in the Democratic party," says Adam Segal, founder and head of The 2050 Group, which managed media relations for the launch of the organization in coordination with Faithful Democrats cofounder and executive director Jesse Lava.
Along with some direct interaction with campaign staffers in key battleground states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, as well as with religious leaders around the country, promotion of the organization relied heavily on media relationships.
USA Today and the Associated Press covered the September 5 launch of the Web site, with subsequent media coverage that included key regional newspapers like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and religious-focused outlets, such as the Religion News Service, Christianity Today, and the Associated Baptist Press.
Segal says interaction with and links to liberal blogs like Daily Kos, Atrios, and Instapundit also helped draw visitors to the site.
Unique visitors to the Web site numbered in the hundreds of thousands; the organization was reported on widely, including by NPR, CNN, Fox News, ABC, and Christian radio stations nationwide; and midterm election polls around the country indicated that "religious values" were a significant factor in voting by Democrats, Lava says.
Exactly how much efforts by this group or others to encourage discussion of religion in connection with political candidates or issues actually contributed to the Democratic Party's takeover of Congress is not clear, the group readily concedes. However, the attendant media coverage suggests greater awareness of the large number of Christian Democrats in the country, Segal says.
The group is currently developing its future strategy for reaching out to Christian Democrats around the country, but definitely plans to focus on encouraging 2008 presidential candidates to pay more attention to Christian communities, including many of the "mega churches" around the country that can have members numbering in the tens of thousands.
Given that grassroots organization of Christians has reportedly been crucial to recent Republican presidential victories, efforts to create greater awareness of the Christian values of many Democratic politicians makes sense. Significant media coverage of the organization, along with the attention paid by blogs read avidly by Democratic political activists, helped draw many visitors to the Web site, though post-election polling can only very roughly gauge how important religion may have been to Democratic voters.