Baptist minister likes Huckabee; grower supports Romney

FALLON -- Pastor Dan Fitch, bless his heart, has a problem.

He doesn't want to tell his Emmanuel Baptist parishioners here to caucus for Mike Huckabee, but then again he does.

"I think it's great we have a Baptist minister like Huckabee running for president," Fitch says, grinning. "But I think I should be impartial. I'm going to try to tell everybody just to remember to caucus. I hope I find the strength to keep from doing more. Maybe the Lord won't mind if I just slip up and say something occasionally to the congregation."

Unlike so many communities along U.S. Highway 95, Fallon, the Churchill County seat, is prospering. The Navy's Top Gun operation complements what has been a prosperous agricultural region, which now has 8,500 residents.

Just down the road from Emmanuel Baptist, Charlie Frey grows grapes that he hopes one day will make his Churchill Vineyards one of the world's top wineries. As he shows off a bottle of wine, Frey remarks that he would like "a better business climate."

"I'm going to caucus for (Mitt) Romney," Frey says. "He's a businessman, and a businessman understands a businessman's challenges."

Fitch wonders how many voters will follow their hearts rather than their heads during the caucuses.

"This could be a very strange political process," he says. "We could have Baptists like me going for Huckabee, Mormons going for Romney, women going for Clinton and African-Americans going for Obama. I'm not sure it's good for America, but when it's the first time your people are taken seriously, it's bound to happen.

"At some point, though, we're going to have to come together. We've got too many serious problems."

The most serious problem is the war in Iraq, says Fitch, who counts military personnel from the nearby Fallon Naval Air Station as congregants.

"As far as the soldiers and sailors who come in here, they're the most disillusioned people I've met," he says. "It's about the oil and nothing else, and that's hard for them. I don't know if that should surprise us, but some of these young men enlisted for other reasons after 9/11. Now we just have to assume that politicians lie to us."

Fitch believes Romney, who is Mormon, isn't the candidate to bring the war to a satisfactory end.

No one who believes that God inhabits a physical body and embraces works of scripture beyond the Bible, can win, he says.

"Evangelicals aren't going to let it happen," he says. "We say religion shouldn't matter, but it does."