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. Guester

    Religion in politics is bad for both.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • SupremeAmerican


      May 17, 2011 at 1:56 am |
    • MikeBell

      I'm more concerned about a religion that isn't named as such. It's the Progressive faction that Bush and Obama are part of. That faction is pushing the legislation of its 'Social Doctrine' to be the 'State Religion'. You can call it secular but the social agenda is pushed with a religious zeal.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:23 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      Very true mike. It's just a real shame that the youth these days are naive enough to fall for the socialist agenda. And a lot of these commentors on CNN are just that.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • besam

      I am as far removed from being partisan as Saturn is from earth; and yet, it amazes me that Ron Paul gets no consideration because he doesn't look cute, or is too old. I laugh and cry at the same time; because it affects me directly in the sense that, for people that save, all what the Federal reserve does is punish us. If there were a candidate that would make a dramatic shift in the way the US is governed it would be Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich; but alas, the only way either of them will have a chance is if the NFL was disbanded and both of them said, I will bring back stupid football so that the masses will revel in the stupor of professional entertainment

      May 17, 2011 at 6:06 am |
    • Walker

      Yeah ... socialism is dangerous! Look what being a socialist did to Jesus—it got him killed.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  2. Robert

    Who cares...believers of any stripe are more important than their votes. This whole marginalization is ridiculous and demeaning.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  3. Adelina

    Sometimes, bad people don't deserve good leaders.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  4. Pham

    Did I miss something or did this article completely fail to mention Ron Paul? Well this Christian, having voted for Obama in 2008, will be voting for Ron Paul this time around regardless of the odds. I wouldn't have voted for Huckabee or any of the other Republican candidates anyway. It doesn't matter to me if a candidate espouses Christianity. Rather, I'm looking for someone with honesty and integrity whose positions I agree with, specifically on foreign and monetary policy which I feel are some of the most important issues.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Eric the Purple

      Who is Ron Paul?

      May 17, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Lisa Marj

      Let me google that for you, Eric, you clever man, you: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Who+is+Ron+Paul%3F

      May 17, 2011 at 1:51 am |
    • realitybites

      Really? So you trust a man who will be damn near 80 yrs old when he gets into office and can't decide whether he's a Regressive or a Libertarian? My Christian sensibilites tell me common sense ain't all that common. I can't trust folks who follow charlatains and false prophets along w/ those who can't figure out who's banner they want to run under. Same difference. Romeny or Paul. Your choice. Mine is neither of the above. Obama has had to spend the past 3 yrs clearning up as the friggin mess that Nader helped hand us. Ron Paul. There is a reason he's not mentioned. Don't know, don't care, don't want to either. He's a 1 %er running under a populist conservative flag so therefore a hypocrite and a loser.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  5. Dave

    Religion is the root of all evil...

    May 17, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  6. Jim M

    Can't help but think that the reason that Mike Huckabee isn't running is, that he fears that this time people will find out the truth about him that he nothing but a religious fraud!

    May 17, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  7. Dave

    Again, no mention of Ron Paul of course – just like 2008. CNN is paid off!

    May 17, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Eric the Purple

      Who is Ron Paul??

      May 17, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • realitybites

      Again, that's because we don't know whe he is, we don't trust Libertarians who can't wear their own uniforms, or reality tells us that he's just a vote siphoner like Nader. Thanks to Nader we got a friggin moron in office for 8 yrs. I don't think a lot of Americans want that anymor. Nader er um I mean Paul bears no mentioning. His son's an enough of an embarrasment as it is.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  8. morpunkt

    The Evangelicals need to bury the hatchet and unite with all believers, including the Mormons. If they do, and entertain the thought of voting for a Mormon, like Mitt Romney, and Romney gets someone like a Jim DeMint of South Carolina as his running mate, all the king's horses and all the king's men would not be able to stop the Reps in 2012, even the left-leaning new media, such as CNN. It could happen. Of course, there will always be a substantial amount of them (Evangelicals), who still won't vote, but it won't matter.
    Once the Obama dollar gets devaluated, even the staunchest Dems will jump ship by 2012, and vote for a "money guy". And that dude is Mitt. It's still about the economy!

    May 17, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Susie

      Jim DeMint....now you're scaring us!

      May 17, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • Bible Clown

      "Obama dollar" You need your medication adjusted.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • SB

      morpunkt, do you really wonder why most of America thinks evangelicals are stupid, hateful, small-minded little people?

      May 17, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  9. macguysea

    "Christians" are such hypocrites!!

    May 17, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Joe

      To Macguysea,

      We all fall short of the glory of God. I'm a christian and I strive to live for God each day. I have to confess, there are many times I've have fallen and sin. But I refuse to walk away and abandon God. He will never leave us, nor forsake us. So you're saying I'm a hyprocrite. I'm telling you brother, I'm am a true christian that loves God deeply. Don't judge against one another. Take the speck out of your own eye, so then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:51 am |
  10. M.K.

    Moderate all you want, CNN. by the way isn't that censorship

    May 17, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • Jay

      Nope, censorship is when the government does it. CNN owes you and I nothing and certainly is not bound by any rule to post whatever drivel we can type up.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Andrew

      1) It's a private corporation, so cries of censorship are tiny bit silly.
      2) Chances are, you weren't actually censored, you just had a word with a 'forbidden word' implanted somewhere inside. You can't, for example, say 'v- ague' because of the "v-g" inside it. Or 'a-ssinas-inate' because of -ss in it. You can't say 'circ-mspect' because of 'c-m' in it.

      In other words, your bigger issue probably revolves around the fact that whoever designed the word filters was an idiot and forgot to have it so the filter checks for whitespaces before and after words. So you get a ton of comments which are blocked for no apparent reason. CNN's had this problem for a while now, and still no one has bothered to fix the code. A high schooler can build a filter that checks for whitespaces, so really CNN's coders have little excuse. From a (very) cursory look over the page source, it seems this is written in Java too, so I mean even I could fix the code to check for whitespaces, and I'm certainly far from the most proficient Java coder. (I'm more proficient in fairly useless languages like IDL, which is used mostly for astronomy)

      May 17, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Bible Clown

      It's clbuttic censorship and you should buttbuttinate them for doing it.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  11. horf

    Will evangelicals vote for the the Republican who has the best chance of beating Obama, or will they vote for a serious evangelical candidate who will never win? That's the real question. If they will not vote for the mainstream Republican candidate, you can give the election to Obama. Maybe by a landslide.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  12. de

    Nary a mention of Ron Paul. What, is he the stealth candidate? He's the best in the field by far, and you see far less mention of him in corporate news.

    Register Republican and vote for Ron Paul in the 2012 primaries and general election.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Eric the Purple

      Who is Ron Paul? ??

      May 17, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • realitybites

      Yeah, vote for Ron Paul! Seriously folks. He's the dried up old quack that will take Raph Nader's place in this election. Problem w/ him is he's a libertarian who can't get people to vote for him in #'s as such so he switches parties to get more votes. Trust him? No. I'd rather see Romney as the contender for the Republican nomination and I'm no fan of his either.
      Paul's sole role in this election will be to siphon secular Regressives away from the Jesus Freak base of the Grand Old Potty. You can probably see where I'm going here. He won't make it b/c there seculars are a minority in the GOP. Libertarians are a secular version of conservatism. Libertarians who can't wear the uniform of the army the represents should be treated w/ scorn and contempt for treason from their party and therefore not be trusted.

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

      @de: Do you really think he will be welcomed by the evangelicals?He said if the states want pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-drugs etc legislation the govt shouldn't interfere. Do you really think they will support him? More importantly, do you think the Repub party will support him? Highly unlikely.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  13. M.K.

    When the American people start voting with their mind instead of their heart, they will stop losing their ass.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  14. Reality

    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.)

    May 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Andrew

      ... Does this mean that you at least don't vote for abstinence only s-x education, cause that also has a high direct correlation with high teen pregnancy rates.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • Lenny Pincus

      Or 69 mill think the government should stay out of their personal business and 59 mill are busybodies? How many southern baptists have gotten abortions? How many have gotten divorced? How many have had affairs? Newt Gingrich is not an outlier. He's the baseline. The only people evangelicals vote for are candidates who fool them into doing so.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Annatala

      One-issue voters do exist. However, I find the suggestion that people only voted for Obama because they either had an abortion, or were close to someone who had an abortion, extremely difficult to swallow. Surely most voters are not as obsessed with abortion as you claim to be. And even if they were, do you really believe that "people who remember to use condoms" are the people, and the only people, who oppose abortion? Please don't paint a complicated issue with such a broad brush.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  15. Gloria

    Wise decision

    May 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  16. Jay

    If they could teach KoKo the gorilla how to say a few key phrases like "God is pro-life", and "I love Jesus", evangelicals would vote for her in droves. Remember, these people voted in Dubya... and wanted Palin to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

    It's pure tribalism. Most of them are not smart enough to tell when a candidate is a complete m*ron, so they rely on magic incantations, instead.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Perrin

      Hmm. Well, Koko would be a far better president than Palin would. Hmmm.

      Seriously, I agree with you.

      May 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • patti

      KOKO can probably already say those phrases in sign language. It is so juvenile and ignorant to think that people, evangelical or not [and I am not, although I am Baptist], are all stupid and mindless. That's like saying all people named Jay have no sense. Everybody is so ready to clump, degrade, or totally write off individuals who think differently from them. Grow up. Our world is broader than that.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Jay

      patti, if it were just an issue of people "thinking differently" than me, I would not care... But your rights end where my nose begins. I don't want my tax dollars going to teach kids religion in school instead of science. I don't want some fundie like Bush starting wars on my dime. I don't want to finance a government that discriminates against gays. Why is this so difficult to grasp?

      May 17, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Eric the Purple

      patti, all religious people are "stupid and mindless". It's just a brain thing; don't worry about it.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • Frogist

      @patti: I don't think evangelicals are all exactly the same, but I think that matters not very much because by and large they vote the same. Does that mean they want the same things? Maybe. Does that mean they care less about the ideas of a candidate than their religion? It certainly appears so.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  17. david

    I am very religious but i would hope people would vote not based only on their religious affiliation but what the candidates really stand for. As a Nation we should be grown-up enough to study the issues and see where these candidates stand.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • DVD

      God forbid... 😉

      May 17, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Veritas

      As a Nation we should also be grown-up enough to realize that fairy tale religions are a bit stale, but that hasn't happened yet.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Grown ups don't blindly accept multi-millenia-old ancient myths and fairytales.

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

      @david: But that's just the problem. People assume they know what someone stands for when a candidate says they are "religious". The voters infer what that means based on what they want it to mean regardless of what the candidate actually is about. So they ignore any actual ideas, statements or voting record because they have a preconceived notion about who they are based on one word. In this country, "Christian" simply equals "good" for some people. And for them hearing that word is like putting on blinders to the actual facts at hand.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • InFormed99

      23% of Americans still believe Elvis is alive...Why be so surprised that many believe in talking snakes...

      May 17, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  18. pazke

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

    Is Mr. Farris saying that if Romney were the nominee then all the evangelicals would vote for Obama? Well, then, I may just have to register as a Republican and state campaigning for Romney!

    May 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  19. John N Florida

    Who cares? I'm sick and tired of their efforts to create a Christian Theocracy in the United States. Maybe they'll stay home and that would be for the best.
    I don't ask the police to go to their church. They can keep their bible out of my legislature.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  20. Jim Smith

    I would think that true Christians would be seeking a candidate that most espoused Christ like qualities.
    Someone who cared about the poor, the sick, and the homeless. Someone who really listened to what the Prince of Peace taught.
    Oh, Oh, sounds like Jesus was a socialist.

    May 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
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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.