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Huckabee announcement puts evangelical votes up for grabs
Mike Huckabee at Washington’s National Press Club in February.
May 16th, 2011
06:49 PM ET

Huckabee announcement puts evangelical votes up for grabs

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - With former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s announcement this weekend that he won’t seek the presidency, one of the largest voting blocs in the Republican Party is now officially up for grabs: evangelical Christians.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Huckabee - a Baptist minister who focused on faith-related issues like opposition to abortion - rode evangelical support to victory in Iowa and seven other states during the primaries and caucuses. John McCain eventually won the GOP nomination.

With Huckabee on the sidelines, other Republican White House hopefuls will have a better chance of picking up evangelical votes, which accounted for more than half the GOP electorate in Iowa and South Carolina in 2008, according to polling.

“Mike Huckabee had virtually unprecedented appeal among evangelicals in the Republican Party,” says Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "[His] announcement leaves a huge void among one of the most potent constituencies in the GOP at a time when the race is highly fluid and arguably wide open.

“Whoever does the best job of securing a plurality of Huckabee and social conservative voters in Iowa, South Carolina, Florida and other early primary states will likely emerge as the Republican standard-bearer,” said Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition.

Some influential evangelical voices say it’s too early to tell whether born-again Christian voters will largely gravitate toward a single candidate, as happened with Huckabee in some states in 2008, or whether they’ll split support among candidates.

“Among the people I’m talking to, [Huckabee's announcement] basically throws the race wide open,” said Michael Farris, a Christian activist who actively supported Huckabee in 2008.

Farris, who has been lobbied for months by some GOP presidential candidates, said one obvious beneficiary of the Huckabee news is Tim Pawlenty.

A former Minnesota governor, Pawlenty is an evangelical Christian who is popular in the anti-abortion movement.

But representatives for other probable and declared candidates argued that their campaigns are well positioned to inherit Huckabee’s evangelical support.

“Huckabee had a large basis of support in Iowa, and 60 percent of that came from evangelicals, and everybody is going to be vying for that same constituency,” said Rick Tyler, spokesman for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

“Newt’s been doing a lot of work over the last four years meeting with Iowa pastors,” Tyler said. “My guess is we’ll have a real shot at being the candidate of a large percentage of Huckabee’s supporters.”

Mark DeMoss, a Christian public relations executive and unpaid adviser to likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said he thought Huckabee’s announcement “is helpful and Governor Romney certainly benefits from it.”

“But I don’t think anybody lays claim to the so-called evangelical vote,” DeMoss said. “It’s much less monolithic than it may have been in previous elections.”

Romney and Gingrich have well-publicized challenges to winning evangelical votes. Romney is a Mormon and once held moderate positions on social issues like abortion, though he has since moved to the right. Many evangelicals say Mormons are not Christians.

Gingrich, meanwhile, has been married three times and has admitted to an affair with his wife, Callista, while he was married to his previous wife.

“Romney is not considered a trustworthy person in our community,” said Farris, who is the founder of Patrick Henry College in Virginia, which caters to Christian students who have been home-schooled.

“There is a fairly strong view that if Romney is the nominee, people will walk away from the party,” he said.

“Newt is brilliant but his chances of getting the nomination are close to zero,” Farris said. “There’s a strength of rejection around character issues that I don’t think it’s possible for him to overcome.”

Pawlenty, for his part, is familiar to many conservative Christian activists but remains unknown to much of the country.

After Huckabee’s announcement, some conservative Christian activists said substantial evangelical support may now go to longer-shot potential candidates like Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

"With the exit of Mike Huckabee from the race, Sarah Palin must be sitting in Alaska examining the new opportunity to vacuum up evangelical and social conservative voters,” said Gary Marx, a Christian activist who led Romney’s outreach to conservative voters in 2008.

Palin’s political action committee, SarahPAC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Mike Huckabee • Politics

soundoff (338 Responses)
  1. Mike

    "Who gets Huckabee's evangelical voters?"

    Send them over to the DNC. Please.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • realitybites

      They won't be welcome there. "Sorry no room at the Inn." I guess we could have them wander in wilderness for awhile but the Salt Lake City already got established in the 19th century when you would expect that kind of backward religious fervor to exist. How about we start taxing churches that decide to take on official political stands. After all a law is a law and no good Christian should stand above it right? The government would easily make up for it's budget shortcomming but, unfortunately we have too many of them in office that would block that as well. We could round them all up and send them to Mexico and see how their rights would stand up there. Think on it and get back to me, will ya?

      May 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  2. Richxx

    I've been a republican since before the religious right took over the party (1960's). Fiscally conservative, socially moderate. I will not vote for anyone who professes their evangelical righteousness. I am ashamed that I never got involved and tried to prevent the takeover. Bottom line it has left me with no one to vote for much of the time except an occasional libertarian who doesn't stand a chance. Voting for a social and fiscal liberal democrat is out of the question.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Frogist

      @Rich: I understand your position. I also understand there are many more like you. Why aren't you trying to kick the crazies out? It seems the Repubs have become so caught up in the grab for power that standing by their principles has become a distant second goal. Unfortunately as long as the religious extremists control the debate, they will threaten to invade the Dems as well. Religion was not supposed to be the determining factor in who gets to govern. More than ever the debate needs to move away from religion and who is more righteous, and back to economic concerns, social welfare and international relations and who is more qualified.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  3. David

    Whoever it is, they will have to count on the absentee vote after the Rapture.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  4. Kittycat

    Magic underwear Romney getting the vote are you serious??? Southern christians consider mormans as a cult,(which they are) besides the white house would have to add one extra wings for all the wives..

    May 17, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • RLP1509

      Well @Kittycat that's about the most ignorant thing written on all of these comments!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  5. Whammybar

    Who cares!

    May 17, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  6. liz

    "Who gets Huckabee's evangelical voters? " Whoever isn't the black President?

    May 17, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Breed11

      Lame!

      May 17, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  7. Reality

    Once again, all the evangelical votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. And Huckabee knows this. That is why he is not running.

    "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets.

    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)

    (Currently, a perfect birth control barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one! In the meantime, mono-ma-sturbation or mutual ma-sturbation are highly recommended for hete-rose-xuals who need a contraceptive. Abstinence is another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?)

    May 17, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • InFormed99

      Don't forget that the Catholic church forbids the use of both the pill and condoms. Note that the abortion rate is at a 30 year low (because of the widespread use of the pill) so it's a non issue.

      I find your 'solution' of creating a drug to eliminate s-e x drive is the most stupid idea I have heard. Why not ban laughing and eating candy because they are not 'good' for you.

      Wake up.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Mike

      What you fail to understand is that roughly 98% of the human race is little more than furless monkeys. They'd be squatting naked on a tree branch listening to the wolves singing in the night if it weren't for the blood, sweat, and tears of the remaining 2%.
      Taking responsibility? That would require a mental effort that is pretty-much beyond them.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Reality, for once I kind of agree with you. Abortion and STDs are an epidemic, one that could have been slowed or stopped by self control and more use of protection, such as the pill and IUDs. I'm a Christian, and I'm not opposed to the use of these devices; like you stated, they often fail due to "user error", in essence, forgetting to put on the condom or take the pill. Abistinence through self control is still the only 100% effective way, but people are always looking for an easier way, which is why we have these devices. Even so, in the rare cases when these fail, abortion still isn't the only answer. The parents still have more options, such as taking responsibility for the child they're bringing into this world, putting the child up for adoption so it can go to a family that will love them and care for them, or even asking for help from family memebers in raising the child. I find it hard to say this, but, well said, Reality!

      May 17, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • realitybites

      And you are a perfect example of people who will vote one way only in hopes of changing the bench in the supreme court so Roe V. Wade can be overturned. Reckless abandonment for 1 controversial social issue. Goes to show and prove what I say about hypocrites ovrunning from the GOP. Nevermind that even though you scream about the "murder of unborn fetuses and zygotes, you have not problem supporting a regime that is responsible for current GUN legislation in our country and the illegal entrance into Iraq that cost the lives of countless innocent men, women, and children all in the name of vanquising EVILDOERS what did thousands of dead Iraqi children do to you? Woud you support their abortion if you thought that they would not be Christians? Do you believe they have souls too? Are you going to go to their parents and tell them that you are sorry you voted for a president that murdered their child all in name of a lie and ask their and God's forgiveness for your sin? I highly doubt it. How about the Mexican couple who lost their child in a shooting involving automatic weapons bought out of the back of a pickup truck at a Texas Gun show. Go ahead, I dare you. First, though, I think you ought to get that log out of your eye , get your priorities straight and, get right w/ God before you leave this world. I have no such guilt b/c I don't hold myself to such lofty aspirations so as to fall from Grace when I act HUMAN.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  8. Rolph

    The scriptures were written many thousands of years ago by brilliant men(probably Jews) who realized that there were no central laws to determine mans behavior. In an effort to control behavior they put the fear of the supernatural into mans thoughts. If tribal law couldn't control behavior than fear of god and the devil would. As civilization continues to become more civilized over the next millenium the need for fairy tale beliefs will hopefully become unnecessary. If not than the battle over which side of the egg to open first will eventually destroy us all!

    May 17, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • InFormed99

      It's a well known fact that humans operate at their best when faced with mortal danger. The bible defines an almost perfect enemy, one that can not be vanquished, it's the perfect way of controlling vast legions of people to do incredibly stupid things.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  9. Luis Wu

    What the heck is wrong with people that they would even consider electing a cultist moron like Huckabee or Romney??? Are people really that STUPID???? I just don't get it.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Salty Bob

      In the beginning man created the gods

      What I think of organized religion. I hope you gleam a small bit of useful information as I have. What games religion is playing in America and the world today? We live in a rare time and country where we can choose for ourselves how much or little Religion we want in our lives, but the followers of most religions just don’t understand the word no! Not in my life not in my schools not in my government, NO! is the choice I have made for me and my family, the following reasons are part of the problem as I see it.

      First: religion is in no way real. The word religion or god is nothing more than an expression or product of human fear and weaknesses or imagination in some cases. The Bible/Koran, a collection of ancient myths and stories borrowed from many different cultures over hundreds of centuries or longer. Sadly the followers of Christianity, Islam, and others want to make decisions for us all based on there interpretation of books that are in no way real. These groups are working hard and spending millions trying to influence our politicians to pass laws based on there interpretation of these books. Trying to convert the USA into a religious state. I hope to never see any religious icons on our flag, because then it would be a good time to leave.

      Second: Religion no longer has a place in the real world. It divides us as a people to choose ignorance over logic, to forsake the future for a ruthless past. A Wall of Separation is supposed to protect us from all religious infringement upon our school’s teachings of science to find real truth and knowledge. Not to pass out fairytales to our children of some aged dogma from an era long dead, our children deserve better.

      Many of these groups place supernatural abilities on some of its members, born of a virgin or walk on water or cure the blind sick or to fly. Throughout history you will find many who have claimed the same feats, again they are all wrong. No interpretation no matter how subtle can change the fact these are nothing but stories meant to entertain or teach something to the people of that era nothing more.

      Religion, as an idea has been with us before recorded history from early man’s worshiping of nature to Charlemagne’s murder of the innocent in the name of Christianity, to jets crashing into towers in the name of Islam. Coerced observance is the main method almost all these religions use. Worship me or you will be tortured for all eternity or murdered out right. Fear mongering, or coercion is tyranny! Remember the Dark Age’s religions rule in that dark, distant past didn’t serve our ancestors well it certainly won’t serve us any better today! These are the labels I proudly wear heretic, infidel, atheist, man of science, freethinker.

      Third: We put our trust in our elected officials to maintain the wall of separation, to prevent religion’s ever reaching grasp from tainting the consideration of new laws, as well as research designed to help many! This country was not founded on the rule of any ones religion, but more the lack of religious influence in the governing of this country. But time and again you hear religious overtones spouting out of our leaders, The wall is crumbling. The time for the burning of witches, belief in a flat earth, the murdering of doctors, and crimes against women and children or religions many other immoral and vile acts committed against humanity as a whole can no longer and should no longer be tolerated no matter what religious book or god demands it.

      Anyone of good conscience should agree with what I have said and ban together, so we can bring this country the very world we live on into the 21st century free of these groups hold on our minds and revel in all the promise this century has to offer so our children's children's children will look back in pride an see we did what we did for them and there posterity. This is after all a very small world and a grate leaping point into the vast unknown. I so hope more minds are opened and see beyond the centuries of engrained dogma. I just hope it`s not layed to waste by then.

      450 BC Buddha walked on water

      SOUTH of Savatthi is a great river, on the banks of which lay a hamlet of five hundred houses. Thinking of the salvation of the people, the World-honored One resolved to go to the village and preach the doctrine. Having come to the riverside he sat down beneath a tree, and the villagers seeing the glory of his appearance approached him with reverence; but when he began to preach, they believed him not.
      When the world-honored Buddha had left Savatthi Sariputta felt a desire to see the Lord and to hear him preach. Coming to the river where the water was deep and the current strong, he said to himself: "This stream shall not prevent me. I shall go and see the Blessed One, and he stepped upon the water which was as firm under his feet as a slab of granite. When he arrived at a place in the middle of the stream where the waves were high, Sariputta's heart gave way, and he began to sink. But rousing his faith and renewing his mental effort, he proceeded as before and reached the other bank.
      The people of the village were astonished to see Sariputta, and they asked how he could cross the stream where there was neither a bridge nor a ferry. Sariputta replied: "I lived in ignorance until I heard the voice of the Buddha. As I was anxious to hear the doctrine of salvation, I crossed the river and I walked over its troubled waters because I had faith. Faith. nothing else, enabled me to do so, and now I am here in the bliss of the Master's presence."
      The World-honored One added: "Sariputta, thou hast spoken well. Faith like thine alone can save the world from the yawning gulf of migration and enable men to walk dryshod to the other shore." And the Blessed One urged to the villagers the necessity of ever advancing in the conquest of sorrow and of casting off all shackles so as to cross the river of worldliness and attain deliverance from death. Hearing the words of the Tathagata, the villagers were filled with joy and believing in the doctrines of the Blessed One embraced the five rules and took refuge in his name. Makes you wonder what else did the bible copy from other groups.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • InFormed99

      Yes.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  10. Shane Botwin

    Many candidates will appeal to the right wing whack job voters by spewing forth evangelical slogans against abortion, and those voters will swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker like they always do. But after eight years of Bush Junior, I think the majority of American voters will vote based on rational reasons, seeing past all the hypocrisy and bait casting that worked so well for Karl Rove's organization.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Jane S

      thank you. Well said.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Exactly! Thank you.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  11. buke56

    Who gets Huckabees Evangical voters? Only the severest of the whack job GOP candidates which is all of them but if I had to pick one i would have to say Sarah Pay-off. Lock & load for Jesus.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  12. Not All Docs Play Golf

    The "evangelical" vote? It should go to Satan. Evangelicals are evil in sheeps clothing.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  13. J

    Mike Huckabee was the best candidate for the GOP. Only one with common sense. Read his book "Do the Right Thing". It's a longshot, but my next endorsement would be Rick Santorum.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Huckabee is a religious cultist moron. I'd sooner vote for a dog than him. What a freaking idiot. And people that like him and would vote for him don't have even 3 working brain cells in their head. I just don't get it. Why can't people see through his stupid cr@p????

      May 17, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Seattle Sue

      J-You must be impressed with liars, such as Huckabee and Santorum. There is nothing as more disgusting as a Baptist Minister lying. As for that matter any person of religious leadership lying. Have you seen the video The Huckster is hawking where he tries to rewrite history. This man is definitely in it for the money, always has been the money.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  14. Jane S

    What I hope will happen here is that the evangelical Christians will realize they have been duped into thinking the Republican party is the "Christian" party and will walk away from it. Yes I know they get up there and say they are against abortions, but it's time Christians realize that is just a way to get their votes. I myself favor certain restrictions on abortion. But casting your vote for a party on the strength of one or two issues is simplistic and naive. How about voting for the guy you like- the guy who LIVES other Christian behaviors by proving that he's a solid family man, by not sleeping around. A guy who SHOWS Christian compassion by being concerned about healthcare, jobs and other reform? How about Barack?

    May 17, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Veritas

      Shh, you are revealing the Republican scheme, to lure in the poor uneducated "evangelicals" with promises of g@y bashing, bans on abortions, unrestricted gun access, wars wherever we can start one, and hate mongering in general. Their economic policies favor mostly the very wealthy and big corporations, but the "evangelicals" don't understand this part.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  15. SSampson

    Faith votes – hmmm – we've all seen what happens when faith and politics mix – any faith – any political system

    More atheists than religious folk live lives more similar to what various religions talk about as proper – apart from the praying/worship bit – which you don't need to be a good person... Atheists tend to prefer peace in society – religious folk are always about vengence and such...

    May 17, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • jim

      You can't really blame them, though. They think they were created in the image of an angry, wrathful, vengeful god. It's just their nature.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Atheists think they came from monkeys, which is why they just throw crap.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  16. Sir Ron

    I have read the Bible extensively and I don't recall to any mentioning of "Evangelicals" anywhere in the Holy Scriptures. In fact, I can't even recall any mentioning of Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc., anywhere either. All I could ever read about is "Christians" and/or "Disciples". Maybe my Bible need to be updated or something.

    ..... don't mean to sound sarcastic.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • WordBearer

      That is funny. I haven't read the Bible but I can see where you'd need the latest version. Scary times we live in.

      This was the only guy I liked for President. He tells the truth. I guess that is also an out dated concept.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Luis Wu

      I've read the bible cover to cover, both the old and new testaments. I found it entertaining but obviously pure fiction. Ancient mythology, nothing more. Nothing "holy" or "devine" or "sacred" about it. Just a lot of old myths and superst!tions. Ignorant nonsense written thousands of years ago by ignorant people.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • InFormed99

      People have been making stuff up for thousands of years regarding this book. People can't even agree which version is 'true' (Old vs New). In the end it's just a load of nonsense.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • BobParr

      It also doesn't mention the word "Bible" or "Trinity", but Christians believe that, right?

      Evangelical is a definition to describe a particular belief among Christians about what the Bible says.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Sir Ron

      BobParr: "Evangelical" is a term that has been "ASSUMED" by those who claim to believe what the Bible says. It was never a Biblical term. That was a term created by Martin Luther during the Protestant Movement. But if you care to compare what they believe, you will find many contrasts and contradictions to that which is taught in the Bible. Seek and ye shall find.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  17. Dead Man Blogging

    In the end, the Republicans will unite around Romney. The object of the game is to defeat Obama. All other considerations are secondary. The Democrats would rather nominate an ideological candidate, or someone from one of their favored "groups," even if they lose the election. The Republicans are more practical about the whole thing.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Michael

      As evidenced by the whole Sarah Palin thing? Yep, practical.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Romney is a member of the Mormon cult. I think removing the second "m" from "Mormon" will give you a good idea of what this religion is about. Only an idiot would vote for him.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Oh please

      "The Democrats would rather nominate an ideological candidate, or someone from one of their favored "groups," even if they lose the election. The Republicans are more practical about the whole thing."
      I'm pretty sure you got the parties mixed up there. The Republicans have this problem on their hands: the candidate who is extreme enough to win the nomination, at least if the evangelicals have their way, is too extreme to win the general election. No matter how appealing an extreme candidate might sound to Mike Farris, the general public is unlikely to vote him or her in. Remember Barry Goldwater.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  18. Katie

    Romney is the best bet.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • dgeneric

      Lets not forget Dr. Ron Paul and the Campaign For Freedom, perhaps the last straight shooter in politics! People let's think for yourselves, read how Ron Paul feels about our America, ....say you want a revolution?....Time to wipe the slate clean, find out for yourselves why this man wants to SAVE our Country! Revive the Republic, Ron Paul 2012!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Veritas

      Romney? Would "christians" actually vote for a mormon? Their religion is even more crazy than the original christian one.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Luis Wu

      I would never vote for a religious fanatic, no matter which religion, denomination, cult etc. They're wack jobs and only an idiot would want one of them for president.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      So, Liu, you must have voted for McCain in the last election, because President Obama is a church-going "religious fanatic", according to you.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  19. Just Saying

    This guy looks like Shemp from the 3 Stooges

    May 17, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • jim

      Shemp was a lot smarter, though.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  20. revinger

    whack-job mitch daniels is trying to fill that position with his maximum-sperm-survival plan in indiana.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • Observer

      Why not look up Michael Farris, founder of patrik henry college and read about how this nice christian treats his faculty.
      http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/mayweb-only/120-12.0.html?start=3
      He is so far right and fundamentalist, he is off this planet.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:42 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.