January 29, 2008
The Evangelical Choice
Pew Forum asks whether evangelicals will flock to any particular candidate.
In the vast canon of analysis of evangelical voters, John Green's interview with Pew Forum is speculative but helpful. There are the things we already know (e.g. Giuliani has an "issues problem" for evangelicals), but also some thinking past Super Tuesday - and before George W.
Green sees three real contenders for the majority of the evangelical vote: Huckabee, Romney, and McCain.
But are any Democrats likely to snag many evangelicals? Obama's comfort with speaking about his faith seems to give some evangelicals the warm fuzzies, Green says, and Democrats may get a greater proportion of young evangelicals this election.
"A lot of the anecdotal evidence from the campaign trail suggests that these are folks that may like to see a different relationship between evangelicals and the Republican Party," Green said, explaining that McCain's rocky relationship with Religious Right leaders Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell might not blight his campaign.
To truly get a majority of evangelicals, Green says, a candidate needs three characteristics: personal appeal, electability, and issue positions that are "minimally comfortable." Presumably, it's Democratic issue positions that continue to push evangelicals to the Republican candidates.
Asked about how Huckabee's evangelical support would be dispersed if he withdrew, Green responds:
The fact that Huckabee has come this far with relatively little organization and a real lack of funds is because of the enthusiasm of some evangelicals at the grassroots level who have been campaigning for him on their own initiative. That kind of enthusiasm is difficult to shift from one candidate to another.
It's at least plausible that if Huckabee's followers stay involved in the process, they may find John McCain more congenial than some of the other GOP candidates.
Does this mean that most evangelicals will vote Republican next November? Or will they remain divided and unpredictable in a field where every candidate seems to have two but not three of the characteristics they're looking for?