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. Truth Teller


    May 24, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  2. Happyfrenchman

    So I guess it is a foregone conclusion now that all evangelicals will vote Republican? I know the REpublicans take them for granted, but I didn't know the press was doing it too now. If they actually took to heart the words of Christ himself, they would all likely be democrats.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  3. EliteAmericans


    May 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  4. DP

    Welcome, Huckabee supporters, to the Ron Paul r3VOLution! There's some Von Mises literature on the table over there to get you up to speed or you can talk to Chuck. (*whispers*: Don't get Chuck started.)

    May 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  5. noemi

    Mormans are a cultmthey read and have there own book that they read from.I don't know as much as I'd like to about this cult.just like most american don't know much about politics. But having a cult member running our country is one thing I'm sure americans won't let happen.and if u stick uo for this cult leader its because ur one of them.christian people read from our bible and they interpet the words to the best of their knowldge with the help of there priest. Mormons have their own book.it doesn't make any sence,but they like to think they live by it.they wear holy underwear,they have visions to let other races into there covent so they don't get sued by them.and you still don't think they're a cult. Go find the book called. Menmy mother and the mormon church.they are a cult not a religon a cult.....

    May 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Whatyoutalking'bout

      The Book of Mormon is hard to understand? Is it because it uses the English language? Example: (one of my favorites) Helaman 12:4 "O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!" Wow you're right! I almost needed to break out my dictionary to find the meaning of "evil".
      Did you know that the Romans called the Christian Church a cult? Every new religion is a cult. The dictionary says cults are 1 "A system of religious worship and ritual." Yep, I guess I'm a member of a cult! Oh, and you are too! Enjoy!

      May 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  6. G SMITH

    Do not vote for a Democrat. The Democratic Party is a racist, hateful and llying organization. Example MSNBC the Obama Station.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • EJ in Metro Houston

      So I guess that makes FoxNews the ANTI-Obama station, right?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Steve


      The Book of mormon didnt come from up above. It doesnt have Gods stamp on it Its got the signature of the devil on it. It came from the pits of hell. J. Smith and Brigaham Young were certified lucifarians. It came from the pits of hell.

      God loves mormons but its false systems God hates. The Bible is from God of Heaven,cause its loaded with incredible prophecies that are 100%. How boring is it to know the end at the begining. 40 writers, 66 books and it reads like 1 great mind. Glory to God. In the mighty Name of Jesus Christ

      May 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Larry

      You must be voting for mitt romney, as you seem to be a devoted moron.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  7. Lindsey

    As a Huckabee supporter, my vote will now go to Ron Paul. There are other good candidates but Ron Paul is the most trustworthy one I see with a chance to win so I will support him. It is a shame Mike didn't run because he would have ripped Obama but I feel that Ron Paul could also do the same.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Larry

      I have a great idea that no evangelical has ever thought of! Instead of choosing another believer of your invisible friend in the sky, why not vote for the best candidate? This will save a lot of gasoline, since you won't even have to vote in the republican primary?

      Unless, of course, your vote is solely based on religion...

      May 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  8. BB

    Huckabee is a worthless bigot selling his wares under the brand-name 'evangelical'. Goes to show that the word 'evangelical' means nothing anymore, if not a code word for bigotry.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  9. mrkusn

    Let the pandering begin!

    May 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  10. Nate

    I would like everyone here, no matter what party you are a member of or what faith (if any) you practice, to watch something. It is a sermon by a local pastor here in Western New York by the name of Jerry Gillis, lead pastor of a non-denominational church called The Chapel at Crosspoint. Go to jerrygillis.com/messages. From the menu towards the bottom of the page, select "Jesus and Politics," a sermon he preached in Feb. 2008. I can sum it up in one sentence: Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and you DON'T know who he would vote for.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Larry

      There is no jesus. he is a character in a fairy tale. Unless, of course, you believe in Hansel and Gretel.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • Larry

      jesus will most likely vote for Shrek, Superman, or Mighty Mouse, as all make believe characters tend to vote for other make believe candidates.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  11. Adam

    I thought there is supposed to be a separation of church and state in this country! Since when do the evangelists act as a political party? What the hell? Shouldn't the US government withdraw the Not For Profit status from these zealots? Stay out of politics Evangelists...Go breed your cousins instead.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Truth Teller

      I got news for you. Church and state will soon be merging in America. This will bring on religous persacution', and guess who the star of the show will be? The pope or (anti christ) head of the new world order. Right according to Bible Prophecy. The Seventh Day Adventist are correct I think.

      May 26, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  12. Laura518

    The Christians should actually vote for the Democrats....Jesus said we should help the poor and the needy – pretty much what we Democrats stand for. Jesus wouldn't be behind rich Republicans, big business, large corporations, etc. Right? So how in the world did the hard core Christians become Republicans? I wish they would read a little history...it's called the Southern Strategy. In the 70's, in order to try to take over the votes in the south, the Republicans went to the very conservative Democratic Christians, who were against abortion, and said if they put on their platform they are against abortion, will you vote Republican. They agreed. Hence the myth that the Republicans are the religious party. But really, what have they done to stop abortion? Not a lot. And everytime there is an election, you have these Republicans falling over themselves to explain why they used to be pro-choice, and now are pro-life. I mean think about it, Republican philosphy is against big government, less involvement in your personal life, and more states rights. So why would a FEDERAL law, telling a woman what she can do with her uterus, even remotely be a Republican stance? Christians, wake up....they just want your vote.

    May 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Happyfrenchman

      Excellent post Laura

      May 18, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  13. DandyStryker

    Well, according to Mike Mike Huckabee’s implication, it was none other than Jesus himself that told Mike not to run. And Jesus obviously wouldn't have done that unless Jesus wanted Obama to win. So it seems clear enough that Jesus wants the evangelicals to vote for Obama.

    Obama: the man Jesus would vote for, if Jesus wasn't dead.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Larry

      Finally, a use for religion.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  14. nick

    Why must people badmouth others? There is nothing wrong with Huckabee, iw ould not support him in his candidacy, but he has a good set of morals and values, I am sure Jesus would approve of his way of life. But yall mocking the Christian religion is not so applaudable.

    May 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  15. jo


    I know right, after seeing this trend a million times over I couldn't contain myself anymore.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  16. Frogist

    The issue of religion in politics is a dangerous one. It confuses the issues for the religious. After all who would they choose to vote for? The person who came from humble beginnings, worked his way through school, graduated with honors, served his community, held minor office and benefited his const!tuents... OR the one who claims authority from god by declaring himself a "real Christian". No matter how impressive and far-reaching your qualifications are, they won't be as good as god's. Same goes for how clean you live your life. It's incomparible. So anytime someone introduces how religious they are, the entire debate becomes pointless for some. Sadly, that "some" is not a small section of the country. They are a significant voting block. How can we as a country counteract their unrealistic methods for picking a candidate? There has to be a way.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Peace2All


      Hey -CK !

      If you think about it 'your' posting here kinda' brings into 'high-relief' are discussion about 'believing in (magic) underwear' on the GOP article, yes...? 🙂

      I think your posting really says it well. We should cut/paste it over to our discussion. !! LOL...!


      May 18, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  17. jamison

    If the Evangelicals had any brains they would realize how the GOP is screwing them in order to benefit the rich, and they would give all their votes to President Obama.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • nick

      Yes, the Christians should support Obama, a great man living ford the LORD, following his beliefs in pro-abortion, pro gay marriage, and prowar(we can assume obama is for the war, since he has showed untrue on his inability to withdraw troops) .... Hmm

      May 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Huh? Give votes to Obama? Is that how it works? My bad! I thought votes were earned

      May 17, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Tom

      Nick – you're the reason people think evangelicals suck. If you think gay marriage is the gravest threat facing the nation, you aren't intelligent enough to vote.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  18. jo

    Greg, please learn how to spell four letter words before you can be taken seriously. The word is LOSE as in lose your keys or LOSE a ball game. LOOSE is when maybe, these pants are too LOOSE or you have a screw LOOSE. Once is excusable, but when you're trying to be taken seriously, twice just shows your ignorance.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • JJ in CT

      Agreed. I have seen the "loose" / "lose" misspellling constantly, and anyone who makes such a simple mistake loses credibility. Also, the when something is completely absurd, it is ridiculous, not "REdiculous."

      May 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Y'all gots more gooder english then I done has.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  19. theoldadam

    Evangelicals ought to quit looking for a "Christian" savior for this country and put their thinking caps on and figure out who best can handle the problems that the country faces.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  20. Greg

    All the Evangelicals can get raptured up and disappear for my thoughts. They are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. Christ himself wouldn't even want to be around them in light of themselves calling themselves "Christians". Hopefully, the Republican Party stops being a bastion of hypocrisy as well. They need to loose the sanctimonious evangelicals, the conservative Right Wingers, the narrow minded and hate filled racists from the Tea Party along with loosing Huckabee, Gringrich, Palin, Trump, Pawlenty, et al. That's the real problem with the Republican Party is its proported leaders, spokespersons and hypocrites! Wake up America! These people are not above you and I. What both parties waste in conventions, TV, Radio, Hotels, Special Dinners, etc.....we could pay off the deficit! I would like to see a reduction in Salaries for each and every member of Congress, Senators and Reps alike. Those people who continue their jobs at let's say 50 per cent less than their present salary is a true worker and a true loyal public servant. Then I will have more trust in these individuals.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Maine Liberal

      Why arent all the evangelicals preparing for the upcoming rapture on May 21

      May 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Adelina

      Christians know nothing major happens on May 21. It's too bad the political climate of USA has become so bad noble men have to decline from possible presidency.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:15 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.