The overnight revelation by a New Life church pastor that Ted Haggard had, in fact, admitted to some of the allegations of homosexual encounters and/or methamphetamine use is huge. Haggard is president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which boasts 30 million members. He was known to be an ardent Bush supporter. He was invited, at the president's personal request, to the signing of the partial birth abortion legislation on November 3, 2003. This is from an e-mail Haggard sent far and wide about the invitation.
Well, on Monday I was in the World Prayer Center and my cell phone rang. It was one of the special assistants to President Bush calling from the White House. It turns out that when the President was reviewing the list of those attending the signing of the partial birth abortion ban, he asked why I wasn't attending and asked that they call me. So the White House staff got onto the phones and were calling the NAE Washington office, our church office and my cell phone at the same time trying to see if I could come to the signing.
Haggard also claimed to participate in weekly conference calls with the White House. The NAE publishes a regular newsletter, which it encourages its 45,000 member churches to place in their Sunday bulletins. Here is an excerpt from the latest edition (PDF):
The fate of the Republican Party’s political dominance depends in large measure upon how evangelicals vote this November 7. Making up over one-third of the GOP, polls show that evangelicals still remain the most supportive group, but at levels significantly below that they were in the 2002 and 2004 elections.
Evangelicals have, in just a few short weeks, been hit by the Foley scandal, the revelations of David Kuo's book and now by the Ted Haggard scandal. Separately, each of those events might not have weighed very heavily on the elections. The weight of all three, however, will be crushing to evangelical voters who must now decide whether it's worth the effort to vote, much less for Republicans, on November 7.
We noted with some amusement yesterday that National Review Online's The Corner included 189 (yes, we counted them) references to John Kerry on its home page, but had not one reference to Ted Haggard. Is there any question which story will have a greater impact on the elections?
In this tense election climate, the timing and magnitude of the Haggard scandal could not be worse for Republicans. It may very well be the final nail in the coffin as election day quickly approaches.