N. Hampshire Christians Rely on Grassroots Methods

Politically active Christians are relying on grassroots methods to either rally or discourage support for presidential candidates as they campaign to win in the Granite State Tuesday.

Some of the state's Christians are opening their homes to presidential candidates and inviting neighbors for "coffee and conversation" hoping to convince friends to vote for their candidate of choice.

Shannon McGinley is one such New Hampshire Christian, who hosted a "coffee and conversation" for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in November, and continues to organize local events in support of the Republican candidate.

McGinley, the founding board member of Cornerstone Policy Research in New Hampshire, commented Thursday after Huckabee's Iowa win that faith and values voters in the state are responding to him because they see a candidate who has "spent a lifetime embracing these values."

"Before he ever held elective office, Governor Huckabee fought on behalf of the family. He defended human life and the rights of families and parents," the self-described Catholic voter said as she explained her support.

She had voted for evangelical leader Gary Bauer in the 2000 primary, and rejected Romney because she questioned the sincerity of his abortion conversion.

"The landslide Iowa caucus victory for Governor Huckabee demonstrates that momentum, vision and passion are now on the Governor's side and we will continue to work to ensure his message is heard throughout the nation," McGinley pledged.

In New Hampshire, this kind of word-of-mouth publicity and devotion among individual Christians is necessary because churches tend to be small and independent, thus lacking the networking skill to mobilize Christian voters as in other states. Moreover, churches in New Hampshire are known for being uncomfortable with mixing faith and politics.

"He's (Huckabee) got very few assets on the ground here," commented Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, according to Washington-based The Hill.

"If there's going to be a surge, it's going to have to be neighbors talking to other neighbors," Scala said. "Word of mouth helps relatively more in New Hampshire than in other states."

The New Hampshire professor, however, noted a Huckabee win in the state would be a "real stunner" because former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain of Arizona have a strong grasp on the state voters.

Huckabee has a smaller group of Christians, his main support base, to work with in New Hampshire. Only about a third of the Republican primary voters in New Hampshire go to church every week, according to The Hill.

Yet former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will have a greater obstacle to face in the Granite State than a smaller Christian population. Anti-abortion group Society for Truth and Justice said it will protest Giuliani at his public appearances and at key intersections in New Hampshire. It also plans to head to Florida to continue its protest, an important state where Giuliani has high hopes he will win.

Currently, McCain in polls has 33 percent of the vote, Romney has 27 percent, Giuliani has 14 percent, and Huckabee has 11 percent, according to the University of New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire primary is set for Jan. 8.