The overhyped story of the 2008 elections so far is the role of the Religious Right in picking a GOP candidate, fueled by headlines about Huckabee’s commercial cross, Romney’s speech on “Faith in America,” Pat Robertson’s underwhelming endorsement of Giuliani and the Rev. James Dobson’s serial excommunication of each aspirant as he edges toward supporting his fellow preacher.
But this media melodrama may be obscuring the decline of the so-called God Vote in Republican politics, starting last November when opposition to the war in Iraq overwhelmed candidates of the Bush theocracy and gave control of Congress to the Democrats.
Even as Huckabee rises in the polls, prominent Republicans are questioning what Peggy Noonan calls his “creepy” appeal and, in New Hampshire, the resurgence of the resolutely secular John McCain is threatening Romney.
A new Gallup poll offers some perspective, showing only 32 percent of Americans now feel religion is increasing its influence in national life, compared to the Eisenhower era half a century ago when 69 percent felt that way.
A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that “younger white evangelicals have become increasingly dissatisfied with Bush and are moving away from the GOP.”
In October, Mike Huckabee told the Values Voters summit, “I come today as one not who comes to you, but as one who comes from you. You are my roots.” Nonetheless, Romney won the straw poll after the meeting.
Now that Huckabee is surging and real voting is about to begin, Republicans will give us some answers about what kind of President they want after George Bush’s pious pronouncements and disastrous performance. “Cultural conservatives” may be in for some surprises.
Cross-posted from my blog.