May 21, 2011

WHY THE BELTWAY MISAPPREHENDS THE BASE:

Romney’s Evangelical Problem: Mike Huckabee’s exit from the race makes it more imperative for Mitt Romney to increase his appeal among evangelicals. (Ronald Brownstein, May 20, 2011, National Journal)

[W]ith Huckabee off the field, the former Baptist minister’s core constituency—the evangelical Christians who represent nearly half of the GOP’s primary electorate—are now back in play for all competitors. If Romney can’t defang the resistance he encountered from those voters in 2008, he faces the threat that they will eventually consolidate behind another contender, such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, with potentially wider support than Huckabee demonstrated last time. “The risk for Romney is that some other candidate with broader appeal may attract them, someone who could stitch together a majority coalition in a way that Huckabee was not going to do,” says veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres, who is working for potential presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman.

Even many Republicans underestimate the centrality of evangelical voters in the GOP’s nominating process. In 2008, self-identified evangelical Christians constituted 44 percent of all Republican presidential primary voters, according to a cumulative analysis of state exit polls by former ABC polling director Gary Langer. Candidates who rely almost entirely on evangelicals—such as Huckabee, Gary Bauer in 2000, and televangelist Pat Robertson in 1988—have never come close to winning the GOP nomination. But evangelicals are plentiful enough that any candidate whom they deem completely unacceptable faces a formidable obstacle—and not only in the Deep South, where they are most heavily concentrated.

Evangelical Christians represented a majority of 2008 GOP primary voters in 11 of the 29 states in which exit polls were conducted. In Iowa and South Carolina, two states that along with more-secular New Hampshire have proved decisive in Republican nomination contests since 1980, evangelicals provided exactly 60 percent of the vote. In 10 other states, including many outside the Deep South, evangelicals represented between one-third and 46 percent of the vote.


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Posted by at May 21, 2011 7:05 AM
  

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