There's a saying, I'm told, that there are more churches in Virginia Beach than flies at a summer picnic. With that abundance of churches, comes a large number of Christian conservative voters. This is, after all, the place Pat Robertson calls home. His Christian Broadcasting Network is based here, along with Regent University, the school he founded.
It's at Regent that we met Charles Dunn, the dean of Regent's School of Government. He believes what is happening in his own backyard is a telling sign of what could happen in November.
Dunn says Christian conservatives are demoralized, a feeling made worse by the Mark Foley situation. Polls tell us that a majority of people from many walks of life aren't happy with the way things are going in Washington. So why do evangelical Christians stand out? For one thing, they helped Republicans win in recent elections and what Foley did seems like kind of moral failing that would make a big impact on this community.
Dunn says evangelicals don't have that same energy to get out the vote this year as they did in prior years. This notion is seconded by some GOP strategists who are convinced that Christian conservatives may sit out this election rather than vote for a Democrat.
To test this notion, we attended some Sunday services in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area and talked to churchgoers, many of whom told us they're not throwing in the towel just yet. They said that while they are disappointed that lawmakers in Washington, including the White House, have not advanced some conservative causes, they will still vote because they think voting is not just a civic duty, but a religious one. Many also noted that they and their fellow evangelicals view Mark Foley's scandal as a personal sin, one for which they don't hold the GOP accountable.
It'll be another month before we know how many religious conservatives turn out on Election Day. Until then, all we can do is read polls, talk to analysts and meet with likely voters. So here's my question for you (especially all the religious conservatives out there): Based on your reading of events, do you think Christian conservatives will stay home on Election Day in protest or will civic duty prevail?