With the eyes of the nation focused on the polls in Ohio, it's worth checking in on what's happening with evangelicals, who represent one-third of the electorate in the state. And we've got three weeks of polling by the same company with which to do so.
In its Oct. 5-8 canvas, which had Obama ahead by a single point (45-44), SurveyUSA showed evangelicals favoring Mitt Romney over the president by 57-37--a healthy margin, but significantly smaller than the 71-27 margin by which John McCain prevailed in 2008.
A week later, with Obama now ahead by three points (45-42), evangelical support for Romney hadn't budged, but had dropped for the president had dropped by five points, 57-32.
And in the latest SurveyUSA poll, taken Oct. 20-23 and showing the president still ahead by three points (47-44), Romney has upped his portion of the evangelical vote to 60 percent while Obama has held steady at 32 percent. So over the three weeks, evangelicals have increased their margin of support for the GOP challenger by eight points.
Meanwhile, over the same three weeks non-evangelicals have steadily increased their support for the president, from 50 percent to 53 percent to 56 percent. Romney's support, on the other hand, has shrunk slightly, from 38 percent to 36 percent. The non-evangelical margin of support for Obama has thus increased by eight point, exactly the same by which evangelical support has increased for Romney.
In 2008, McCain got 36 percent of the non-evangelical vote in Ohio, while Obama got 63 percent of it. The bottom line is that non-evangelicals are looking to split their vote between the Democratic and Republican candidates at just about the same rate as they did last time. Evangelicals, however, remain significantly less supportive of Romney than they were of McCain. The big question is whether Ralph Reed and the pastors can move the numbers.