The Evangelical Bloc

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Go here to pick up the thread of a discussion between GOM’s Dan Gilgoff and John Schmalzbauer in re: whether evangelical voters are a monolithic voting bloc. I’m with Dan on this one. The problem, simply, is that shorthand versions of white evangelical voting behavior sometimes suggest that every last white evangelical votes Republican, and it’s been the case for a couple of decades that between a third and a quarter of them vote Democratic. Dan is right to make the point that, in a closely divided state like Ohio in 2004, just a small shift of white evangelicals would have made a big difference.
But there’s another even more important point to emphasize. As with any dependable voting bloc, the issue is less how its vote breaks down than what the turnout is–i.e. mobilization. The importance of white evangelicals in recent elections, especially where they are thick on the ground, is that they have been highly mobilized via church-based organizing. In 2002, when the Republicans took over control of the Georgia statehouse, frequent-attending white evangelicals turned out at higher rates across the South than they did in the rest of the country. In Ohio in 2004, they were definitely on the march. The reason the GOP has reason to be concerned about them this year, then, is that between their lukewarmness toward McCain and their sense that Obama may be kind of OK, they’ll stay at home.