November 3rd, 2010
03:56 PM ET
From CNN's Eric Marrapodi:
Ralph Reed and his Freedom and Faith Coalition did their best to sway the electorate Tuesday night. Between phone calls, mailings, and knocking on doors, Reed estimated his pro-family, pro-free market group had 58.8 million voter contacts aimed at the conservative faith community.
He described that group as "frequently mass-attending Catholics and evangelicals."
The coalition says it built a list of 7.7 million households before the midterms who fit that mold.
Reed said, "What we were trying to do was ensure those people turned out in the largest number possible and we think that effort was successful."
According to the group's polling information released Wednesday, 32 percent of voters identified themselves as members of the conservative Christian movement. That number represents an increase over their 2006 data. Of those voters in their survey who self-identified as conservative Christians, 78 percent voted Republican.
Reed echoed the common theme in this election cycle that many conservative Christians also identified themselves as Tea Party members: "These movements are inextricably intertwined and there is an enormous amount of overlap."
David Brody, a reporter and anchor at the Christian Broadcasting Network, coined a phrase on his Brody File blog Wednesday to describe the overlap: The "Teavangelical Party."
Some prominent evangelicals, including R. Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary, have warned that the overlap could cause a problem between conservative Christians and the libertarian elements of the Tea Party.
That sentiment is one Charles Dunn, professor of government at Regent University, agrees with. "It could be a danger if Christians begin to sell their souls to the Tea Party," he said, but added Tuesday night that conservative Christians voted the way the did because "They knew which side their bread was buttered on and it was the Republicans'."
Dunn said many of the gains Democrats made with Catholics and evangelicals who cast ballots for Barack Obama in 2008 may have been erased on Tuesday night.
"Rank-and-file folks, they believe that they were lead astray by President Obama. And I've talked to enough to know. They bought a bill of goods that was not a good bill of goods. Once burned, twice weary. They became really upset with the direction of the country," Dunn said.
"Either party ignores [conservative Christians] or opposes them at their peril at the ballot box," Reed warned.
Reed said it was financial reasons more than faith reasons that swayed many conservative faith voters, according to their polling data. In essence the pocketbook trumped the pocket Bible at the ballot box.
"I think that the social conservative pro-family movement is in the middle stages of a fascinating evolution," Reed said, explaining that he sees the movement embracing conservative fiscal issues. "I think what you're going to find is more and more people of faith working on a broader range of issues, staying true to their pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-religious freedom (views,) and also recognizing that a big out-of-control government that is bankrupting future generations is not just a fiscal issue, it's a moral issue."
Reed acknowledged his group's efforts to turn out those 7.7 million voters was not the only reason many of them voted: "We wouldn't say it was all thanks to our efforts. We were kind of throwing up a spinnaker in a 40 mph wind."
Reed said to consider 2010 elections a primer for 2012. "We are not going to rest until Barack Obama has been replaced by a pro-family, pro-life, conservative president."
Formerly of the Christian Collation, Reed began the Faith and Freedom Coalition in the summer of 2009 following a sojourn out of the public eye after being linked to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.