For evangelicals like Billy Graham, California is the wall that must be breached. They rail against the state's well-entrenched secular values. They think of themselves as a persecuted people, the only escape being turning the state into a Republican one which it was once a long time ago. Graham and his humanitarian organization with an international presence, Samaritan's Purse, is at the forefront of trying to do that.
Part of Graham's Christian thrust is in the form of a three-bus caravan, rolling up the state. The aim is to turn the voter tide towards the favor of the GOP, with the message to all evangelicals resident in the state to vote Republican and win California for the glory of Jesus. The tour will continue for two weeks. It will end the day the primary will be held- June 5. Graham is giving his all. He is scheduled to host 10 rallies in full campaign mode. The campaign is premium quality, with the evangelical roping in top Christian singers and slickly produced videos. Laser light shows will be on the offer.
Graham's message is more than Jesus and the Christian faith. His speeches have an urge of a time-sensitive political message- support the candidates who will push socially conservative causes like opposing gay marriage and abortion. A number of his stops are in places where Republicans and Democrats are almost in equal numbers. Other stops are in places where there is a substantial number of Republicans.
The evangelical and telegenic pastor sees what many political pundits have missed. Even though a large section of the California population identifies themselves as religiously unaffiliated, there exist pockets of evangelical islands blazing red in a blue sea. California incidentally has more megachurches compared to any other state. About 26 percent of the national voters were white and born-again Christians in 2016. As per exit polls, only 13 percent of the total voters created any opportunities for the likes of Graham to make any foray into elections.
For Graham, California plays a major role in his personal finances as well. The state is the second largest source of funds for Samaritan's Purse. The state also gives substantial donations to Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, his other organization. Republicans, however, are not confident about their prospects. The party is even in shaky grounds in areas which are now held by the GOP.