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McCain's Reverend Problem: Swamped Mississippians Hand Republicans A Loss

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John McCain's recent visit to New Orleans and his current eco tour of the west coast follows a wave of his courting progressives, since he has already courted and received endorsements from conservatives like Rev. John Hagee.

Problem Reverend issues had staying power in national and state levels last night. In West Virginia, where Obama lost to Clinton, half of the Democratic Primary voters told exit polls that Obama shares the views of his former pastor. After declaring Rev. Jeremiah Wright fair game against Barack Obama, John Hagee, McCain's own chicken little, is coming home to roost. His declaration that if the sky is falling, it's the fault of gay Americans may have lost for Republicans a Mississippi stronghold. Mississippi was directly devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and Louisiana was damaged by faulty levees and disappearing wetlands.

Hagee recently was pressed into apologizing to Catholics for calling their church The Great Whore, but not only has he not rescinded his blame-the-victim mentality for what happened on the Gulf Coast, he recently repeated it when pressed. If McCain doesn't have enough juice to get Hagee to back down from his gay bashing attack on survivors of Hurricane Katrina, the silence will be deafening.

Was it a mistake to solicit and accept the Hagee endorsement? "Oh, probably, sure," McCain told George Stephanopoulos last month. But he said in the same interview, "I'm glad to have his endorsement."

Republicans lost a key election tonight in one of the most conservative districts in the nation -- Mississippi's First District -- despite Dick Cheney campaigning for the losing candidate. Voters in the state which suffered enormous losses to Hurricane Katrina are aware that the rising temperature of water off the gulf contributed to the tragedy. Not the Southern Decadence Parade in neighboring New Orleans.

The Hagee attack is a very personal issue for each of us who is not home post-Katrina. If you can't imagine being attacked for something that left much of your family homeless, consider this:

Has the Reverend blamed Communism for the 15,000 earthquake deaths in China this week? Or governmental intolerance for the 100,000 Myanmar cyclone fatalities? No, but he blamed Katrina on Americans, and the Republican presidential candidate is still "glad to have his endorsement."

How can this breach of trust be repaired? For starters, this August McCain should head down to the Southern Decadence parade on a fact finding mission with Hagee and Republican Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter. If they are going to walk a mile in our French Quarter shoes, it would be best to start now for a halfway decent chance of putting together something fabulous.