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Mitt’s Long March

Mitt Romney did manage to win the white evangelical vote in a few states yesterday. The problem is that the states were Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia. In New England, where there aren't many evangelicals anyway, the electorate doesn't believe in voting according to religious identity. In Virginia, Romney's only opponent was Ron Paul, who, despite being the only actual evangelical in the field as well as the true economic conservative, has somehow managed to alienate both evangelicals and Tea Partiers. 

Where evangelicals are thick upon the ground and they had candidates they liked, Romney struggled. In Oklahoma and Tennessee, where white evangelicals come close to three-quarters of GOP primary voters, he lost them to Santorum by 10 points and 18 points respectively. In Ohio, where Romney staved off disaster by eking out a one-point victory, he lost them to Santorum by 14 points. Lucky for him, Buckeye Republicans were only 47 percent of the turnout. In Georgia, where they were nearly two-thirds, they preferred homeboy Newt Gingrich to Romney by  33 points. 

The immediate problem for Romney is that the rest of electoral calendar this month is chock-full of heavily evangelical states. On March 10, there's the Kansas caucuses, which Mike Huckabee won in 2008 with 60 percent of the vote. On March 13, there's Alabama and MIssissippi, both of which Huckabee also won thanks to evangelical bases of 77 percent and 69 percent. The Hawaii caucuses will be small consolation for Mitt that day.

Then on March 17 comes Missouri, which for some reason has decided to go with caucuses rather than a primary this year. Evangelicals outnumber other GOPers 55 percent to 45 percent there, and last time around Huckabee won them handily but didn't quite manage to beat out John McCain. Look for Romney to pull out all the organizational stops he has; if Santorum wins he starts to look like a winner. After Puerto Rico on March 18, which no one will pay attention to, the final two contests of the month are Illinois on March 20 and Louisiana on March 24. Romney should win the Land of Lincoln handily, as McCain did in 2008. But Louisiana is a different story. Huckabee beat out McCain there by taking the lion's share of evangelicals, who were 57 percent of the Republican vote. 

The bottom line is that after his stumbling Super Tuesday performance, March looks like a losing slog through the mire for Romney. Presumably he gets moving again in Maryland and Wisconsin on April 3, but it's not until April 24 that he reaches the friendly confines of the Northeast again. And even then there's Santorum's Pennsylvania... (N.B. You can check out all the numbers for yourself at CNN's 2008 and 2012 Election Center sites.) 

Topics: Politics, Election
Tags: romney, santorum


  1. The premis behind the notion of Evangelical voters voting against Mitt Romney is based on the assumption they will only vote for the candidate who aligns with their personal beliefs. Voting so far does not support that.

  2. No, the premise is that the evidence of evangelicals voting disproportionately for candidates who are not Mitt Romney (or Jon Huntsman) indicates anti-Mormon sentiment on their part.

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