Confused Hawkeye Evangelicals

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The latest PPP Iowa poll makes clear just how divided Iowa evangelicals are about who to caucus for next Tuesday. Six candidates poll within nine points points: Paul (21 percent), Romney (16 percent), Bachmann (15 percent) Santorum (15 percent), Gingrich (14 percent), and Perry (12 percent). Four years ago, Mike Huckabee garnered 46 percent of evangelicals, with Romney picking up 19 percent, Fred Thompson 11 percent, John McCain 10 percent, and Paul 10 percent.

In 2008, Huckabee beat Romney handily in Iowa, 35 percent to 25 percent, because evangelicals showed up in force, constituting fully 60 percent of the turnout. PPP makes out evangelicals at 47 percent this time around. If their actual turnout is what it was last time, then the candidates who stand to pick up points are Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum. Paul and Romney would lose ground–and Paul would eke out a victory with little more than 20 percent of the delegates and five candidates in the teens. Contrariwise, if a lot of evangelicals, uninspired, decide to stay at home, it’s Paul and Romney neck and neck at around 25 percent, with only Gingrich, among the others, making it into double digits.