WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- Sen. John McCain's campaign says it's ramped up efforts to rally Christian conservatives behind the presumptive Republican U.S. presidential nominee.
The campaign to get conservatives to the polls in 18 battleground states is low-key -- e-mailed messages and briefings of conservative leaders before McCain, R-Ariz., delivers key speeches, The New York Times reported Monday.
McCain's wooing of the conservative vote must be balanced against his appeal moderates and independents, political analysts said.
"Because the Republican brand name is less popular and the conservative base is restive, McCain has special needs to reach out to independent and moderate voters, but, of course, he can't completely neglect the evangelical and conservative base," John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, told the Times.
Evangelicals played a key role electing in U.S. President George Bush, who doesn't shy from the role of religion in his life and used his faith his advantage in 2004. In contrast, McCain already in the 2008 presidential campaign distanced himself from two conservative ministers for anti-Islam and anti-Semitic remarks.
"For John McCain to be competitive, he has to connect with the base to the point that they're intense enough that they're contagious," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said to the Times. "Right now they're not even coughing."