Iowa Demonstrates Struggles of Conservative Evangelical Voters

January 05, 2012

Ethics Daily ran my latest article today, which is entitled "Iowa Demonstrates Struggles of Conservative Evangelical Voters." It examines the results of the Iowa caucuses and the impact of conservative evangelicals. The article demonstrates the continuing impact of confessional politics and how former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum quickly rose to a virtual tie with Romney (the photo is one I took of Santorum in Iowa in August). It will be particularly important to see what happens when a group of key conservative evangelical leaders meet in Texas next weekend to consider how to unite behind one candidate and defeat Romney. The piece also considers upcoming challenges for conservative evangelicals as they remain divided, which is helping the candidate many of them do not like--former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney--squeak out a victory.

As candidates shift their attention to New Hampshire and South Carolina, here are some thoughts on the top five winners and losers in Iowa:
-Winners: Santorum (who is now a front-tier candidate after months at the bottom of the polls), U.S. Representative Ron Paul (whose close third-place finish shows his growing influence within the Republican Party), Iowa caucuses (due to Santorum's win, it is once again demonstrated why it is important to have a state where candidates can rise to the top based on grassroots outreach rather than merely spending a lot of money), Romney (who rose to the top due to splintering of opponent vote and now primarily faces Santorum--who has less money and national prospects than Texas Governor Rick Perry would have had if Perry had been the top anti-Romney candidate), and attack ads (proving they work as they greatly damaged former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's standing).
-Losers: U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (whose long-shot campaign ended after an embarrassing sixth-place finish), Iowa Straw Poll (which looks even less relevant after its winner, Bachmann, performed so poorly), Perry (who came in a distant fifth and now is limping into South Carolina), Gingrich (who came in fourth place just weeks after leading in the polls and now seems focused on merely attacking Romney rather than winning), and Romney (who was unable to improve over his 2008 showing and demonstrated that he is still unable to break past his 25 percent ceiling).

2 comments

  1. Anonymous5:01 PM

    I am absolutely sick and tired of having your "god" (whatever it is you mean by that) shoved in my face every time I turn around. Don't you know you are dust and you will return to dust, and this life is all you have? Aren't you smart enough to figure that out, just by looking around you? And, no, you don't have a choice about it, you are already in the wringer.

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  2. The bottom line problem that conservative evangelicals have in being a political constituency is the difficulty they have uniting behind a candidate who honestly reflects their perspective. Such a candidate would have to come from among the ranks of the denominations and churches that define the movement itself. The problem is finding a candidate that is viable in terms of the experience and ability to be elected on a national stage, who reflects the Christian values generally held by the movement, and whose political views can fit with the rest of the party, as well as the independents they now need to be elected.

    They were able to put one over on most people with attempting to make W into one of them, because people wanted to think that he was. Generally, by ignoring his views on gay rights and gay marriage, his irregular church attendance, membership in a gay friendly church, and bewilderment at times over things that people thought he believed, they convinced people. It will be harder this time around.

    Perry and Palin were probably their best hopes, but unfortunately, Perry has to open his mouth and speak in order to campaign, and while most evangelicals are willing to give him a pass on his questionable political record, blatant and inexcusable ignorance about the constitution, the workings of the federal government, the economy, etc., etc., no one else would. Palin, becoming a grandparent to two illegitimately conceived children, has also made it clear she doesn't have the knowledge or intellectual capacity to occupy the office.

    So, ironically, it comes down to three Catholics, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul, to carry the conservative evangelical standard. My prediction is that they won't really line up behind any of the three, and will split their vote through the primaries, handing the nomination to Romney, whom they will either have to support, or silently back away from. If they go with Gingrich, they are hypocrites for the things they said about Clinton. If they go with Santorum, they back a candidate who might not even carry a single state, including his own. And Paul is hated and despised by the corporate crowd that runs the party.

    They had a chance with Mike Huckabee, but their corporate cronies and the Onepercenters didn't like his fair tax proposal.

    The White House has to be quite pleased with the prospects.

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