Thirteen months out, we can say with some confidence that the Republican “field” is set. To Speak Thom Tillis’s relief, Phil Berger bowed out; then, to everyone’s confusion, Pete Brunstetter leaned in but left before anyone figured out who he was. And last week, the most formidable dark horse candidate entered the race. His name is Mark Harris.
A wild Baptist preacher, Harris made his name championing the anti-gay amendment that started our disastrous right-wing binge. True to form, his announcement speech declared the Harris campaign a crusade to redeem America. This claim is highly suspect. It’s more likely that, like most megachurch primadonnas, his activities serve to get his angelic visage on TV. His fear of God is just a fear of going unseen.
Most pundits think this confidence game is up. The Christian Right is dead, they insist, slain by the axe the Tea Party swings at our budget. If you believe this theory, you must explain why 76% of Republicans supported Amendment One in PPP’s final poll. That figure alone shows a deep reserve of support for social conservatism. Just as important, it suggests huge potential for grassroots fundraising–perhaps through a list borrowed from the frontrunner’s nemesis.
Harris thus enters with real advantages, which is not obviously true of Greg Brannon. Unlike that of Harris, Brannon’s support is mostly virtual, confined to the oddball political junkies who failed to elect Ron Paul. Brannon also seems weirdly complacent for an insurgent. Harris, by contrast, understands that it takes passion to slay a giant. Given his awkwardness, compared to Harris, Dr. Greg Brannon rather resembles Dr. Michael Beitler.
More than any candidate, Harris shares the militant theocratic worldview of our state’s far right. He is a fireball of faith and hate. No Republican is likely to overcome Tillis and the NRSC. But should anyone send him back to Cornelius, it may be the avenging angel from First Baptist Church.