If evangelicals in New Hampshire behaved like evangelicals in Iowa, Ted Cruz would be celebrating a second-place finish in the nation’s first primary this morning. But they don’t, and he isn’t.
Believe it or not, evangelicals are not a negligible segment of the GOP electorate in the Granite State. Yesterday they made up 25 percent of it, up three points from 2012. The problem for an evangelical paladin like Cruz is that they aren’t the kind of voting bloc they are in Iowa.
In 2008, New Hampshire evangelicals split their vote equally among Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Mitt Romney (28-28-27), leaving Iowa-winner Huckabee to finish a poor third with 11 percent overall. In 2012, they went for Romney over Rick Santorum and Ron Paul (31-23-21), leaving Iowa-winner Santorum to finish a poorer fourth with 9.5 percent.
This year, again, evangelicals put their guy over the top in Iowa, preferring Cruz to Donald Trump by 12 points, but in New Hampshire they actually went for Trump over Cruz by four points, 27 percent to 23 percent. That 16-point swing was enough to shove Cruz out of a tie with John Kasich for second place and back into the pack with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
For the past half-century, New Englanders have shunned faith-based politics, and New Hampshire evangelicals are no exception to the rule. It’s a rule that helps explain why there are so few Republicans left in the region.