Fresh off his election to a prized seat on the Republican National Committee, York County GOP chief Glenn McCall is set to hit the campaign trail for John McCain.
McCall faces the daunting task of reaching out to minorities and nontraditional voters at a time when Democratic nominee Barack Obama is generating loads of enthusiasm among both groups.
The invitation to stump for McCain came last week during a trip to Washington, where McCall visited the White House, shook the hand of President Bush and later huddled with advisers from the McCain campaign.
They asked McCall to serve as a surrogate for the Arizona senator, a request to which McCall says he quickly agreed. Over the next few months, McCall expects to attend a National Urban League conference in Orlando and an NAACP convention in Cincinnati. He'll also represent the party on various political talk and radio shows.
"Obama's a great orator," McCall told The Herald. "It's been wonderful and historic that he's the first African-American to capture a major party nomination. But I think with his candidacy, this is where we want it to end. I just don't feel he's the right person to lead our nation."
Reaching out on social issues
McCall, of Rock Hill, made history this month by becoming the first black to represent South Carolina on the 100-member RNC. Now, Republicans are counting on him to take the conservative message to new audiences.
"There's a lot of pro-life African-Americans out there, even though they may be Democrats," said Darrell Jordan, a spokesman for the RNC. "A lot believe marriage is between a man and woman. Simply by him talking about that, it will cause other African-Americans to really hear what he's saying and ask themselves, 'Is this a policy that I agree with?'"
To black Democrats, dividing voters with familiar wedge issues is a strategy destined to fail.
"The majority of African-Americans do share those views," said Ernest Gibbs of Rock Hill. "I'm one of them. I also know beyond that, they don't offer any answers for helping us economically or furthering our education. They resort to those fear tactics when they fear they're going to lose."
Those close to McCall believe his biography adds a unique element to his message. Born as one of six children to a single mother, McCall grew up in a home without a father. He joined the U.S. Air Force, where he retired as a staff sergeant, and later rose through Bank of America to become a vice president.
In speeches and interviews, McCall often says his upbringing taught him the value of responsibility and self-reliance.
"It's not just that he's African-American," said South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson. "Certainly, that's playing a part in the national politics. (But) Glenn's got a pretty powerful message of how he came to success. He's a guy that resonates because his stances politically are just like our platforms, and that doesn't always happen."
McCall warms to McCain
The campaign promises a new role for McCall, who was not enthusiastic toward McCain during the primary season. The night of the South Carolina primary, McCall was visibly disappointed as he watched the results come in at Thursday's Too restaurant.
"We'll all have to get behind him," he said at the time. "I thought Huckabee ... I don't know what happened."
The question now is how Republicans should confront the excitement surrounding Obama's candidacy. For his part, McCall wants to frame the choice as record versus rhetoric.
"In these worsening times, with the economy and the war, are voters really going to be punching that ticket for Obama, a senator with one unfinished term and no meaningful accomplishments?" McCall asked. "You line him up next to a proven commodity with the cross-party appeal of John McCain, (voters) will see experience."
Like many conservatives, McCall abhorred McCain's support for an immigration bill derided as amnesty for illegals. But now, McCall's loyalty to the Republican cause has convinced him that McCain is the best choice.