December 17, 2007
The Evangelical Whatsup?
From crackup to powerhouse.
Just weeks ago, much was made of the demise of the one of America's largest voting blocs. The, "extraordinary evangelical love affair with Bush ended in heartbreak over the Iraq war and what they see as his meager domestic accomplishments," wrote The New York Times David D. Kirkpatrick. Evangelicals would no longer cast deciding votes in presidential elections--for at least six weeks.
Then came the surprising rise of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is neck and neck with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Today, The Wall Street Journal credits Huckabee's rise to evangelicals.
The candidate's quick rise is a vivid demonstration of the power social conservatives continue to wield in Republican politics. It also illustrates the bloc's evolution. Grass-roots churchgoers no longer necessarily follow their national leadership.
"The leaders may have committed to someone [else], but their followers are flooding" to Mr. Huckabee, says Mike Campbell, his state campaign chairman in South Carolina.
Mr. Campbell is likely referring to Pat Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani. Campbell also seems to have in mind CT's January editorial, which says, "There isn't an evangelical vote. We are not some pious voting bloc up for grabs."
Many evangelicals have been paying attention to the race and making up their own minds. The Journal reports:
In Des Moines, Iowa, Pastor Rex Deckard of Calvary Apostolic Church noticed a change around mid-November. At a meeting with about 25 ministers, he reminded the group that Jan. 3 was caucus day. "Remember to vote for Huckabee!" someone shouted out, and the room broke into applause. "I thought, 'Wow, there seems to be something building,' " Mr. Deckard says.
Mr. Deckard gave Mr. McCain a serious look but initially decided to support social conservative Sen. Sam Brownback. When Mr. Brownback dropped out of the race, Mr. Deckard moved to the Huckabee camp, as is clear to his congregation: His briefcase and car now sport Huckabee stickers. Looking around, he realized others were coming to the same place.
And this shift in loyalties is having a ripple effects throughout the Republican primary campaign, The New York Times reports. Mitt Romney, who has long led Iowa, stands to lose ground from Huckabee's rise, which would benefit a lagging Giuliani campaign, according to the Times analysis.
Of course, with its deft reporting on the evangelical crackup, maybe we should take such analysis with a grain of salt.