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. richunix

    Please lets really try to keep religious-whack jobs out of the white house. It already has enough issues

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    May 17, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  2. bluemax77


    May 17, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  3. Raoul Duke, Jr.

    Aren't they all going to be swept away in the rapture scheduled for May 21? What does it matter then? By the way, if you get back with me, I'll let you know where you can leave all your stuff that's left behind. Thanks in advance and bon voyage.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:16 am |
    • realitybites

      Awesome! Thanks, I needed that. Hey, where is the big gathering this time? Brazile? Waco? LA? Kool-aid, guns, and comets. So what happens to the idiot who predits the date and it passes by? Do they just apologize and get the idiots who follow him to agree to a future date. Hey how bout a pilgrimage to the the promised land somewhere in the middle of the American desert? They can build a cult that only recognizes itself as the REAL TRUE CHURCH.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  4. Terry

    I just love it. We argue about the separation clause, until it is time to vote or argue about a woman's rights, then the bible bangers come out in droves. Who really cares about religion in a national election? Better yet, why are we allowing the religious right the option of controlling the Republican Party?

    May 17, 2011 at 6:41 am |
    • Frogist

      @Terry: I don't think the Repubs want it another way. They seem to be just fine and dandy being the party of the religious right. It's an easy way to sneak votes without actually having to do much. They don't have to balance a budget, make bipartisan compromise, or act for social causes so long as they talk up their love of Jesus and how often they go to church. It's funny because someone posted on another article that in the community they are from, they voted overwhelmingly for the pro-life candidate without considering their position on fiscal concerns or health care. And now they have loads of anti-choice legislation but no jobs. Bottom line is they got what they voted for. In terms of election rhetoric, the topic of religion blinds people to what they are really voting for.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  5. Colin

    Trying to enlighten your typical evangelical on any issue that is inconsistent with their core superst-ition is as pointless as trying to teach advanced physics to a corgi. The tambourine banging half-wits just cuddle their Bibles and bury their heads in their comforting myths.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:59 am |
    • MrHanson

      The only reason christians are ignorant and stupid is because you want them to be.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  6. Apeman

    Typical Merican hicks from banjo country, just label them socialists and the uneducated gullible, stupid and ignorant nod their heads and squeel in fear, lol. Thank God the hillbillies are a minority and couldn't beat Mr. Obama on his worst day

    May 17, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  7. Gavin Ford

    The myth-believers' days are numbered. More and more people are dumping silly religion and embracing science. Won't happen overnight but it's happening.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:36 am |
    • Colin

      Agreed, and we need to do everything we can to give the deserters a leg up out of their dark superst-itions.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:40 am |
    • gary

      Atheism is myth understood. Religions can't end too soon. Peace.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:36 am |
    • realitybites

      I whole heartedly believe in God, I just chose not to look like an idiot who can't think for myself and question a 2 K yr old text compiled by the Holy Roman Emporer Constantine for social and political control. God created us, the universe and everything in it including the brains that so many are so willing to trade in for fear and control. If Copernicus and many others like him hadn't chosen to honor God by using the great gift he gave the to think we'd still be in a world that some many of our ancestors came here to get away from. There is no AUTHORITY in religion, just in those who claim it. And there are many who are too scared to question them and their claim to power over them. That is Gods thing.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • MrHanson

      Ah yes. We should all just abandon the belief in a purposful universe, where people are actually people and not just organisms in the struggle for survival and embrace the idea of a purposeless universe. Science has show us that life is intracately complex and when you attempt to explain how it happened by accident, then you are entering the realm of religion. It takes faith.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  8. Colin

    The singally most efficient way to determine what side of a debate to be on is ask what side the evangelicals are one and go straight to the other. This works for (i) teaching evolution in school; (ii) gay rights; (iii) a woman's right to choose; (iv) $ex education for teens; (v) contraceptives and birth control; (vi) adult access to po-rnography; and (vii) the right to do something as simple as buy a nice bottle of Chilean red wine on a Sunday.

    I am sorry, but evangelicals are Bible-cuddling hald wits straight out of the Dark Ages who would impose their Iron Age mythology on the rest of us, given the chance. Fear them with every modic-um of your intelligence and education.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  9. Scott

    LOL like someone really wants them.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  10. vic

    yeah, i don't know why they ignored ron paul, it's only going to backfire because as a young evangelical for paul, i'm sensing many more of my brothers and sisters realizing true liberty. ron paul's the man. and cnn crapped on him. shame, i like cnn but it will backfire.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:45 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      Ah yes. A man with good sense. A polite and calm tone to his comment. A reasonable outlook professed very calmly, and with a sense of tranquil authority. I disagree with evangelism but you know what, a lot of these atheists in here could take a lesson from you on how to speak like a civilized human being. It seems the socialist atheists claiming people like you are ignorant, while spewing ignorance and bigotry, are the ones that need to look in the mirror. Thank you. A breath of fresh air, reason, and logic on these comment boards.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      Your use of the word crap is actually correct and flows with the point very serenely. It's not directed at anyone that has a difference of opinion from you, it's directed at an organization that is actually pertinent to the topic. I must now scratch my scrotum with glee.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:57 am |
    • ARTRaveler

      If you want true liberty, there is a flight every week to Somalia. Otherwise, stay off my "socialized" streets and highways, don't use our "socialized" libraries, call our "socialized" fire or police departments and if you live in the rural mid-west or the south, turn off your electricity and go back to kerosene since without "socialized" REA, you would be more in teh dark than you currently are. And sell TVA, so you don't get those "socialized" electric rates.

      We are fighting the Taliban in Afganistan and we certainly don't need a home grown variety shoving their brand of Christianity down our throats by law when they can't win by their talk.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  11. Nick

    I like the part where they ignore Ron Paul


    May 17, 2011 at 4:41 am |
  12. Beverly Tatum

    So the "so-called Christian" Huckabee is putting up his deluded folllowers votes for sale??

    So typical of a Republican – no true Christianity, no values, no morals, no character, no integrity – it's all a hypocritical act by these fake liars. NONE are leaders, NONE care about his country or the American People. It's all about them, how much money they can make, and their loyalty lies with whoever pays them the highest bribes.

    Expert liars and not a leader among them.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  13. jodee

    Well, I am certainly NOT VOTING FOR PALIN. Doesn't she have her high heel collection to attend to? And bears to shoot down? Where is Russia again? Oh ya, it's the back yard of Alaaaskuh. Those pesky Russians, I'll show them who is boss, do they have a Macy's in Moscow? I just want to know where I can buy my Estee Lauder if I visit. The only thing she is qualified for is probably "miss popular" for a float at her high school reunion and maybe a pie cook off.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:28 am |
  14. Jesus

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUj8hg5CoSw&w=480&h=390%5D

    May 17, 2011 at 2:06 am |
  15. surfs-up-charlie

    Evangelicals score well on the authoritarian traits that Bush2 exemplified. The evangelicals represent what utter vanity, intolerance, fear and docility does to a nation.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      If you're trying to woo an audience into thinking evangelicals are ignorant, try not to do it so arrogantly and leave a massive stench of ignorance and unintelligence in your wake next time. Who's the one with the agenda again?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:50 am |
    • Terry

      The best part about it, the religious right is often wrong.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:45 am |
    • realitybites

      SupremeAmerican – name speaks for itself. What really bothers me as a Christian is that I have to get lumped in w/ the Jeasus Freak/Fundis/Evangelicals whatever you want to call them. People who live in the 21st century and literally Believe in EVERY word the Bible spouts as absolute truth. It is easier to be blind, pliable, and scared and go along w/ the other bleating sheep instead of using the brain that God gave you. The Bible, folks, was compiled in the 4th century by the Holy Roman Emporer Constantine. That is 4 hundred years after the death of Christ. 4 hundred. This country hasn't even existed for 3 hundred years. People compiled the Bible from scripts that were wriitten or orally transposed for over 4 hundred yrs. Do you think that during all that era of turmoil they went to the Christian Library and checked out all of the books they could so they could compile them into a convenient compendium for Christiandom. Do you really think the new and established Authority of the Church (the political paty of 4 century Byzantium) just put the Bible together b/c they wanted to spread the love of Jesus. Jesus, if you've read scripture, wasn't a politian. He was striving to change the system for the better of society and for human dignity throug love an tolerance. Got him crucified. He knew it was coming but, it made an impression. Problem is that greed and power are hungry and additive drugs that humanity can't seem to rid itself of and now millionaire preachers w/ their mega churches are preying on the deparation of those who are scared to think discernedly for themselves and questions things that don't make sense in the "authority" of their pastors. Thomas Jefferson called it Priestcraft and was adamanently opposed to it affecting the government of this country. Hellfire and Brimstone make pretty horrific things to scare the spineless. It worked in the middle ages and still aparently works today.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      Bigot much realitybites? You assume from my satirical name as if you were some sort of radical KKK member. You cannot argue with me so you resort to petty child games and are wrong none the less. Thanks for demonstrating what i have so long suspected.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  16. Overmann

    My question is, why would you want them? From a moral standpoint, I mean. Trying to woo evangelical voters forces you to adopt many unsavory anti-education, anti-woman, fear-mongering platforms. Really I wish conservatism could shed its religious influence and focus on the economy, but that's about as likely an event as Jehovah.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      There is no religious binds to conservatism. Only an ignorant fool would be naive enough to think there is, just because someone with an agenda successfully manipulated him into thinking so. Wake up kid. You're the ignorant one here.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:51 am |
    • Frogist

      @Supreme American: I can't tell if you're being deliberately obtuse or you genuinely believe that. Conservatism in the minds of the American voter, especially evangelicals = republican and religious. It has very little to do with the ideals of fiscal conservatism. You only have to witness the spinning like a top that Romney is doing to woo the evangelical vote for you to see an example of how religion has infused with the conservative movement. And the fusion isn't some singular person hijacking the movement. It is a tool handily utilised and welcomed by the Republican party to gain votes by pandering to the religious right.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  17. Joke

    Seriously, evangelicals are not the most thoughtful voters anyway. They should know by now that, short of a coup de etat and one of their own declaring themselves absolute ruler of the United States, their agenda is not going to find its way into legislation. GW Bush had their support, but he did nearly nothing for them. But their notion of picking presidential candidates base on "what would Jesus do?" is pretty weird in itself. Would Jesus turn an airforce on Libya? Did Jesus have an airforce? Well, I guess we will never know the final answer to that one, but let's make it up as we go along and say he would. So, evangelicals will vote for a GOP candidate because they are told to do so by their pastors. And we can presume that God told the pastors who the best choice was. Given this reality, the US is certifiably insane.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • ChristianC

      And you clearly don't have a clue regarding what you are talking about.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:11 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      I think you are confusing the "agenda" of evangelicals with radicals. There is a pretty huge difference. It does help to know what you're talking about sir, i suggest you try that.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:48 am |
  18. Kingfisher

    My vote isn't a trading card that politicians pass amongst themselves. They're acting, as usual, like a bunch of freakin' piranha and expect us to believe they have OUR interests at heart. Can we get some selfless people with *real* morals on the ballot, please?

    May 17, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Lucky Louie

      A "selfless" politician? Don't hold your breath. Politicians are egomaniacs by definition.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      I think Ron Paul might be the guy you're looking for. Check him out, and check out his voting record. He means what he says and is the only candidate on both sides of the isle with the record to back it up.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • Kingfisher

      @Lucky Louie – Yeah, it's a real conundrum. I've seen some really good eggs, but they're pretty rare. With 300,000,000+ people you'd think it would be easier to find a few more Lincolns and Washingtons. Stacking the ballot is business as usual though, I suppose. I'd vote for an decent atheist over those Sunday morning Christians any day, but that's a tough political nut to crack.

      @SupremeAmerican – I agree, but I think he's going to have a lot of trouble winning at his age, especially if he can't make a clean run until 2016. I do like Obama, but I think the bigger problem for any presidential candidate is the 535 people they have to work with to actually get anything done...

      May 17, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      Yes king fisher. That's the beauty of Dr. Paul, he'll cut all the crud out of the decision making process for those 535 people 🙂 Special interests will have no leverage to entice them with Paul at the helm, he'll slash the Achilles heal of those scoundrels.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:43 am |
    • SupremeAmerican

      For me obama was a huge let down. He'll say one thing and do another. For instance, he said he would pull our troops out of the middle east... And quite frankly he's done nothing to improve the financial situation, if anything he's damaged it even more after what bush left him with, using incredibly poor judgement calls on his financial policies. Paul has incredibly superb judgement calls on his financial policies, and his record demonstrates he will actually utilize it, unlike obama who said it in the campaign and 'forgot' about it in the office.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:46 am |
    • MarkinFL

      SupremeAmerica, do you honestly believe the president can force the congress to his(or her) will? Every president that believed so has been proven quite wrong. Manipulate and cajole, yes. Completely control? Not even close. Presidents learn to compromise because they must. Only when the congress and pres are already in agreement does he get anything resembling that kind of power. But as soon as he tries to reform congress, forget about it!

      May 17, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  19. Jacob Anderson

    hahahah. Social Conservatives are so funny!!! They keep politics entertaining. What fun is politics without a sideshow circus?

    May 17, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  20. Joke

    We all know that Romney is not going to get the support because he's a Mormon.

    While the field is loaded with lots of possible inheritors of evangelical support, this does leave that field wide open for Palin, if she runs. I suspect that evangelicals will likely sit out the 2012 election if there is no one in the GOP who can win their support.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Katie

      Most Americans are going to vote for the man that can fix the economy. Evangelicals would cut of their noses to spite their faces. They would let Obama win again to spite the Mormons...real Christ-like.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • RLP1509

      If Romney could run the US economy half as well as the Mormons run their entire church, we would be well on our way to economic recovery. Take a look at how that church expands. From church buildings all over the world, to disaster relief, to a welfare system that should be the welfare system of this country. I didn't say that Reagon did!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 10:12 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.