Evangelicals' Political Power

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2007 — -- Evangelical Christians are a voting force that the Democrats would love to lure away from the Republican Party. A new film by the House speaker's own daughter could help shed light on what lurks in the political heart of 50 to 80 million evangelical Americans.

Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi has produced a new documentary, "Friends of God," which airs Jan. 25 on HBO. In the film, she tours the Bible Belt with her camera.

"I came away with how mobilized they are," says the filmmaker. "These are extremely committed people who are having a huge impact on our culture and democracy."

Washington D.C. Screening

At the D.C. screening of her daughter's documentary, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed evangelicals wield significant political power. But she would not yield that powerful voting bloc to the Republicans.

"Well, they have an impact in their numbers and their dedication," she tells ABCNEWS.com.

"But there are issues we (Democrats) can connect on, like the environment, global warming and fighting poverty -- these are the areas we could work together on," Speaker Pelosi says.

Musician Moby, a friend of Alexandra Pelosi's, came from New York to attend the D.C. screening.

Republican strategist Tony Fabrizio says the documentary is a real-life depiction of the culture that he said is happening across America. "These things are happening. These people take this very seriously as an all-out war. They believe the Democratic Party does not understand their core values," says Fabrizio.

"The political aspect of it makes me crazy," says Moby, who says he used to be an evangelical Christian. "The more the Republican Party caters to the evangelicals, the more they go outside the mainstream and we saw it with issues like stem cell research and the Terri Schiavo case."

Evangelicals and 2008

At a panel discussion following the screening of the film, Democratic strategist Anna Greenberg says the film highlights the strong organizational structure of the evangelical churches -- which Republicans have succesfully tapped into.

"The ground work, the organizational side -- that's just not matched on the Democratic side," says Greenberg.

Fabrizio says evangelical Christians became political when a wedge was driven between Christian evangelicals and mainstream America in the 1980 campaign. That year Ronald Reagan turned abortion into a successful campaign issue for the Republican Party.

Fabrizio says evangelicals have the power to determine the Republican candidate because they turn out in large numbers at the early primaries.

"A Republican candidate cannot win the 2008 GOP nomination without the tacit approval of born-again Christians and the evangelicals," he says.

But who will evangelicals support among the 2008 potential Republican contenders?

Fabrizio says Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will have a tough time getting evangelicals' support after criticizing Focus on the Family's James Dobson and The Rev. Jerry Falwell.

"McCain is his own worst enemy when dealing with these people - they are going to be his biggest problem," says Fabrizio.

When looking at the Republican field for 2008, Anna Greenberg says evangelicals consider former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to be a flip-flopper on core-value issues like gay marriage and abortion, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani less desirable due to his personal issues.

"Everybody looks at [Sen. Sam] Brownback and says that he would be acceptable to both the Christian Right and the small government Right, that he's the consensus conservative," Greenberg says.

The Evangelical Elite

In "Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi" the former network news producer had extensive interviews with The Rev. Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who resigned after admitting to meeting with a male prostitute and buying illegal drugs. Pelosi finished the film before the Haggard scandal emerged.

At one point in the documentary, Haggard is seen standing outside his church talking to young men in his congregation, when he turns to Pelosi (and the camera) and tells her that surveys have found that evangelicals enjoy the best sex lives.

Haggard then turns to the young parishioners and asks them, "How many times a week do you have sex with your wife? How many times does she climax?"

On the political power of evangelicals, Haggard says, "We can crash the Capitol switchboard system. That's power."

Pelosi also speaks in the documentary to Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority who says on camera, "The Democratic Party has gone to hell in a handbasket."

Falwell says that by supporting gay marriage and abortion, Democrats have declared a civil war against evangelical Christians.

"I don't think you can win. John Kerry learned that. Al Gore learned that. And Hillary will learn that in 2008. We absolutely will take this country back for God," Falwell says.

After seeing the documentary, self-described evangelical Mike Kruger of Washington D.C., says this about Haggard's resignation: "I felt sad for him. He didn't speak for me. He is with a long line of Christian messengers taken down by their actions in not walking the walk with Jesus."

James Crestwood of Washington D.C., also an evangelical Christian, says a lot of evangelicals feel misled by the Republican Party. "They've been in power for 12 years and nothing has changed on abortion, gay marriage, the budget is out of whack. It's time for a change."