In contrast to the bad news from Iowa noted in the previous post, the evangelical good news for Mitt Romney comes from PPP’s new South Carolina poll, which shows him not only leading Newt Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum by seven and 11 points respectively, but also tied with Gringrich at 25 percent and ahead of Santorum (22 percent) among evangelicals.
In the S.C. primary on January 19 four years ago, Romney managed only 11 percent of the evangelical vote, finishing fourth at 15 percent to McCain (33 percent), Huckabee (30 percent), and Fred Thompson (16 percent). Then, Huckabee won 43 percent of the evangelical vote, McCain 27 percent. With 60 percent of the 2008 GOP primary voters in S.C. identifying themselves as evangelicals, there’s no question that if Romney can win as many as his nearest rival this time around, he’s got the contest in the bag. (In 2008, he did twice as well with non-evangelicals as he did with evangelicals in South Carolina.)
On Super Tuesday in 2008, Romney did better among evangelicals in some other deep South states that he lost: Georgia (28 percent), Tennessee (20 percent), and Alabama (16 percent). Huckabee won those states with evangelical totals in the mid-40-percent range. It looks at the moment that Santorum and Gingrich will split the rest of the evangelical vote in such a way as to prevent either from doing what Huckabee did four years ago. It seems like by giving Gingrich’s Superpac $5 million, Jewish casino tycoon Sheldon Adelman has guaranteed Romney the nomination in spite of himself,. Call it the gift of one chosen people to another.