January 28th, 2012
02:00 AM ET
Florida Evangelicals a different breed of voter than brethren in Iowa, South Carolina
By John Sepulvado, CNN
(CNN) - Conservative Christian activist Ralph Reed has called the Bible Belt home for decades, but he grew up in Miami in the 1970s, when the city was emerging as a diverse megalopolis.
Among his middle school friends were Jews, Catholics and Methodists.
Then, at age 15, Reed's family relocated to the sleepy mountain town of Toccoa, Georgia, so his dad, a doctor, could take a better-paying job.
“It was very conservative,” says Reed, who now lives outside Atlanta. “At first – as would be true of any 15-year-old – I didn’t like it. I think it was a culture shock.”
Ultimately, the mostly evangelical residents of Toccoa shaped Reed’s faith, helping lead him to Jesus in his 20s. But in terms of his faith-based organizing, the well-known activist drew more on his experiences in hyper-diverse Miami.
"Later on in life, when I became a leader in the Christian Coalition, I had a greater appreciation [for] ethnic and religious diversification,” Reed says.
That could be good news for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor is looking to regain momentum from chief rival Newt Gingrich, after the former speaker’s upset in South Carolina, in Florida’s Tuesday primary.
There are signs that Florida’s evangelical voters may be more forgiving of Romney’s past social liberalism than their Iowa and South Carolina brethren – and more willing to support a Mormon candidate.
“I think Romney could do well in Florida,” Reed says.
A more centrist evangelicalism
As a percentage of GOP voters, there are fewer evangelicals in Florida compared to South Carolina and Iowa, where Rick Santorum won the presidential caucuses, according to CNN exit polls from 2008.
In that year, evangelicals accounted for 40% of Republican primary voters in Florida, compared to 60% in the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primaries.
And compared to those other early primary states, Florida is much more religiously diverse. In the 2008 primary there, Catholics were nearly a third of the Republican vote, with other kinds of Christians, Jews and those with no religious affiliation each claiming a chunk of the vote.
Still, evangelical Christians claim a bigger share of the Florida Republican vote than any other religious tradition. There also are signs they may be more tolerant of a Mormon candidate than born-again Christians in the Bible Belt and Midwest.
In the South Carolina primary, Romney claimed 22% of the evangelical vote, compared to 44% for Gingrich, according to CNN exit polls.
Florida’s evangelicals are “more open” to the idea of a Mormon in the White House, according to Orlando area pastor Joel C. Hunter.
“Our nature, of being a fairly mobile state, with a lot of tourism and a lot of transcultural and transnational interaction really makes us boundary spanning, rather than sticking to our own affinity groups,” Hunter says.
He leads a congregation of 15,000 at Northland, a Church Distributed, a nondenominational megachurch of the kind that are more popular in Florida than in Iowa or South Carolina.
“For any independent church, you’re going to be open – necessarily open – to non-ready made boundaries, open to other religious groups,” Hunter says. “You’ll be more likely to partner with groups that aren’t necessarily like your own.”
The pastor cites his church’s partnerships with local synagogues and mosques to help local homeless children. For Hunter, teaming up with different religious traditions follows the example of Jesus.
“Jesus talked to the people, the religious leaders others wouldn’t talk to,” he says.
“As an evangelical, I should be ready to talk to a lot of people that aren’t like myself, because that’s what I see in the life of Christ, and I’m looking to build relationships.”
Mark I. Pinsky, the Florida-based author of "A Jew Among Evangelicals," says there are other key differences between evangelicals in Florida and those in Iowa and South Carolina.
“In Iowa,” Pinsky says, “they tend to be rural and older. In South Carolina, they tend to be more fundamentalist, and more likely to be affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention,” a denomination that isn’t shy about pointing out theological differences with Mormonism.
Pinsky says Florida evangelicals, especially in the central part of the state, are more likely to have Mormons as neighbors, compared to their brethren in South Carolina and Iowa.
“Nondenominational evangelicals are less likely to demonize someone who is a real person,” Pinsky says.
Less Preaching, More Teaching
Even in smaller Baptist churches in Florida’s Panhandle, there are “notable differences” with Christians in more historically evangelical parts of the country, according to pastor Curtis Clark.
“There’s still a lot of yelling from the pulpit in South Carolina,” says Clark, who leads a congregation of 2,500 at Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee. Clark says his congregation is split between Republicans and Democrats, that almost all the adults have college degrees and that the parishioners want to be led, not yelled at.
“I try and teach, try and encourage,” Clark says. “Florida evangelicals are a little bit more educated, and have a broader experience.”
Census figures from 2010 show Florida has a slightly greater share of college graduates than South Carolina.
Both the Romney and Gingrich campaigns are reaching out to evangelicals to quell concerns about their candidacies. Both campaigns held conference calls with influential conservative religious leaders last week, discussing religion, personal and policy decisions.
Many evangelicals have expressed concern about Romney’s past support for abortion rights and gay rights and over Gingrich’s failed marriages.
But Romney doesn’t need to win big among evangelicals to take Florida, Reed says. Because evangelicals make up a smaller portion of Republican voters, Reed says Romney only needs to win a sizeable share of their support.
“If Romney gets a third of evangelical voters” Reed says, “he wins the primary.”
While Romney skipped meeting with some evangelical leaders in South Carolina, including officials at Bob Jones University, his campaign has started more aggressively courting pastors and religious community networks in Florida. The campaign has participated in multiple conference calls with religious leaders and activists.
“In part, I think [the Romney campaign is] more open to outreach by virtue of the Florida demographic,” Reed says.
That suggests the Romney camp suspects Florida’s evangelicals will be more open to his candidacy than other evangelicals in the primary states so far.
About this blog
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.
Funny how there are different beliefs in Christianity. You'd think if there were an all-powerful god he'd be able to be specific
as far as how he'd like his behind kissed. Gotta say though... what a racket. I think I'll start my own religion so everything I own and all the money I can dupe out of the simple-minded fearful fools will be tax free. On second thought... look where that mind set has gotten us.
Western religion has gotten us the the greatest civilization in the history of the world.
Western science has gotten us a pretty good civilization. Western religion is what keeps getting in the way–less and less.
this is to Annie...if you calll this the best civilization in the history of the world, you are the most un-educated person in the history of the world.
I would venture to state that in reality, each religious person has their own personal religion and their own personal idea what god is and does. So, 5 billion religions, really.
Western religion murdered native people and conquered their land, I believe one of the commandments is thou shall not kill.
Christianity has killed more people than any other religion so you are full of it.
JT, let me give you a little education in religion. Not just Christianity because this can be applied to what I call the Big Three. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Ten Commandments were written for the Jews, by a Jew who went to the top of a mountain to talk to God (sounds ridiculous doesn't it?). Now, those commandments were not written for just anyone, they were written for Gods chosen people. They were to be applied to other Jews. Other religions didn't count, because they were not covered under the commandments, therefore killing them was not out of bounds. They were infidels. BUT, you are correct. Religion has been the largest contributor of death and destruction in the history of mankind...and Christianity didn't corner the market. So let's not blame them for everything, shall we? I mean, the Romans who liked to worship a pantheon (more than one) of Gods used to sacrifice Christians in their arenas to lions and bears. Persia killed Christians left, right, and sideways and for what? A slice of real estate. The Jews have been wantonly separating Muslims from their homes in Israel (and I hate speaking ill of the Jews, I was born one) for years. Atrocities and Christianity so not have a exclusive relationship going on. That has been happening for centuries. The First Nations people (as they prefer to called) are not the only ones to have met with disaster at the hands of others. That wasn't religion either, that was straight up unadulterated greed.
Name a better civilization. And no, Christianity has not killed more people than any other religion. Atheism has killed more people in just two countries (the USSR and China) than religion did in all recorded centuries. Islam comes in second in that most Islamic countries converted to Islam by force. Most who did not believe waere executed. There is a 98% chance that I have more education and a higher IQ than you aaron judging from where I fall on the bell curve.
Annie, Countries do NOT kill in the name of atheism but millions die in the name of religion, for religion & by religion. Being an atheist country does not mean a battle is in the name of atheism. You're trying so hard to make atheism like religion but it simply isn't.
I don't know Annie, when are we going get siestas like in Spain?
Oh maybe you forgot about oh I don't know, The Roman empire, Greece, The British empire, Portugal.......a little early to go to the "greatest civilization" card. Right now we are looking like a bunch of idiots. Evangelicals make it worse.
Jesus has warnings throughout the Bible regarding false teachers coming in His name that He never sent.
Let's suppose Romney runs and wins the election. Does he take his Presidential oath on the Bible or on the Book of Mormon? I think the voters should know.
Why? Do you really believe we all be force-converted to Mormonism or something? Christians have a far longer history of that, and none of our presidents have ever done it. Wipe your brain of religious fantasy and maybe you wouldn't be so frightened.
That is probably the DUMBEST thing I have heard all day, seriously! The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ just as the Bible testifies of Christ's birth. Why would Mormons be any different preferring to be sworn in on the Bible than the Book of Mormon? Both books go hand in hand and not one is better than the other.
I'm sure he would use the Bible since the LDS Church believes in and uses the King James Version just like many Christian religions. He may want to stack a Bk. of Mormon under it– who knows. Who cares?
Just a friendly FYI: Mormons believe in BOTH the Bible and the Book of Mormon. We believe BOTH to be the word of God. We read and study BOTH. But more importantly, we believe in a RESPECT for all religions, faiths and nonbelievers alike. "Mormon" is just a nickname given to the church by others that knew them for their additional book of scripture: The Book of Mormon. The actual name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most people are unfamiliar with this, so "Mormon" is still used today. =) We believe Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, just as you do. =)
Leslie, thank you, exactly. All religious books are equally ridiculous. Let's not take anything away from the Bible by saying it is better than the Book or Mormon.
You also believe Jesus walked around North America and talked to native Americans. Nut job.
It's not radical to be kind and loving to one another... it's not radical to be respectful to each other... it's not radical to care for some one ... it's not radical to give of yourself.... it's not radical to "touch another's life"... it's not radical to respect each others beliefs and opinions.. it's not radical to just be what God made each one of our hearts to be .... human. The "gift is in the giving" to each other. If you find that in yourself... we will find peace with
each other. Please, can we just love and respect one another.
No, we can't, because we're hardwired to fight and hate, and there is power and profit in doing the fighting and hating. Just ask "centrist" Ralph Reed.
All true. But, religion is not needed for one to be kind and considerate of others. One should not need an excuse to be a good person.
To be good for it's own sake does not need religion, it's a natural human state. there are good & bad christians, muslims, atheists, wiccans, etc ... it's just human. Right & wrong, good & bad comes from human society & changes as societal needs change. Religion is just a psychological vehicle.
jk: you need a Valium and a shot of something strong. You're a nasty little cynic. Go awake.
You other two: Excellent.
I'm sorry but do people who claim to be dedicated Christians truly live by the bible and what it proclaims. I know some so called Christians who don't believe in forgiveness, I myself do not go to church on a regular basis but I do believe in god and I know for a fact he was a true forgiving human being and encouraged his followers to do the same. If you are going to live the live of a Christian then do so 100%.
A lot of Christians surely would live the lifestyle with 100 percent purity–if the Bible were 100 percent clear and 100 percent non-self-contradictory. It isn't, so they'll argue forever.
Actually, it's not self-contradictory, that's what most athiest want others to believe for goodness knows what reason. I mean the only reason I say anything about Jesus to my friends is the hope that they will repent and eventually go to be with God and avoid what happens when you don't follow God, athiest's want their friends not to believe only because they themselves don't believe. How selfish is that. . .
First of all, and this is for you Kathy, God is not a human being. Just sayin'. Clearly you've never read the Bible. It is very contradictory. It is also not historically accurate nor is it chronologically accurate. I am also not an atheist. I really wish Christians would take a harder look at their Bibles. Take a theology course, just one. I don't mean a local Bible study group, I mean an honest to God college course of theology and religious. Oh the eyes that would open. Here's some common contradictions:
EXO 15:3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.
ROM 15:33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
MAT 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
LUK 3:23 And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli. <~~~ Er??
PRO 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
ECC 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
1CO 1:19: "For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
ISA 14:21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.
DEU 24:16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
Sooooo confusing. There are also citations in the Bible that profess biological knowledge that we all know is blatantly untrue. Snails don't melt, snakes don't eat dirt, the shape of the Earth is neither a tent, nor a platform, birds did not give rise to cattle, rivers and oceans are not cyclically connected. I could go on like this forever. You're reading and taking literally a book that was created a couple of hundred years after Christ (I have news, none of the testimonial writers in the Bible EVER met Christ), is radically incorrect, and was written as the world was perceived by those in the first century. For example, Noah's world flooded, but not the whole world. To a man of Noah's era the whole world encompassed about 100 square miles, and that's if he was super feisty and really ambitious. Come on people, pull your heads out of your abdominal cavities and educated yourselves.
The Deist, it would be nice if you had eyes to see and ears to hear His truth. First, you can read that Noah's flood was not global, but regional. 2 Peter 3 tells about the katabole (destruction of the first earth age) when God overflowed the earth with water. Genesis through Revelation explains God deciding to bring souls to earth in human form from their spiritual form that was destroyed during the first earth age due to Lucifer and 1/3 of the angels rebelling against God (what we are seeing come to fruition today ... all the non-believers rebelling against Jesus). The Bible is the history (His story) of Jesus coming into the world ...
That should take you awhile, if you even care to acknowledge your reading wasn't adequate.
Ralph Reed is a centrist? Somebody needs a better measuring stick.
People just keep on voting REPUBLICAN and you will continue to get liars like NEWT, WILLIE, RALPH REED and others. Everything they and other REP.' do is to control the population with their lies and convince you that they know Jesus. How much did NEWT pay the RC to annull his past marriages-this doesn't come cheap-Rudy did the same thing and they call thie being an evangelical Christian.
Salvation does not require Joseph Smiths Golden Tablets.
Mormons are a violent perversion of the bible, and are in no way similar to Christians.
I second this motion.
Always amusing to see someone who believes an absurd, juvenile fable mocking someone else's belief in an absurd, juvenile fable.
From an observational perspective.....Mormonism is no less convoluted or silly than any other religion (Christianity definitely included).
Face it....Christianity sounds just as stupid as Scientology.
Salvation does require magical underwear. Always has, always will.
What does it matter the religion of the President? Shouldn't his ability to run our Country come first? Why do we look for all the wrong traits in a person when voting? I want a guy I can see myself having a beer with, I want someone that believes what i was told to believe. I don't want a guy like me, I know I can't run a Country. Also wanting someone with an outstanding record for not doing anything and living a repressed lifestyle is just freaking creepy. Go with who has the best ideas and seems most competent for the job.
If you really think about it, everyone's beliefs are pretty far fetched, I mean do really expect anyone to think that everything there ever was defied the laws of physics and inhabited the same point in space forming an infinitely small and infinitely dense sphere of matter then spontaneously and for no solid factual reason exploded magically forming all there is. How can you believe that all human emotion, art, music, philosophy, is just an evolutionary accident? To be honest, that sounds just as far fetched and silly as believing in a merciful loving creator. . . the only difference being that if athiests are wrong (hint hint they are) then, well, you know the consequences.
Believer in Jesus as my Savior:
Any more far fetched than a white robed dude snapping his fingers and making everything "appear" in six days or less? Really? Genesis is absurd, the Big Bang theory has evidence on its side.
I'll take Stephen Hawkings view of creation over a 1300 year old book any day of the week. Atheists aren't the only ones who believe in the Big Bang as a valid THEORY for creation. Add to the fact that the only thing that keeps it from being a fact is .00000001 seconds in time.
And quit judging the atheists (hint hint Matthew 7:1) practice what you preach, lady. They're free to believe as they wish without validation seeking hypocrites brow beating them.
If these evangelicals are of a christian faith and denomination, why do the not support Obama ? It would seem the principles and ideas he represents would be inline. If they are Christians shouldn't they welcome the idea of person that shows compassion for those that are less fortunate. Obama is trying to offer affordable health care to all Americans regardless of income so those without resources will have access to medical care. Isn't that an example of what Christ would stand for? How ever the GOP candidates are against the idea, also waits to cut aid to those that need it the most.
Why are all you numb nuts ‘non-believers’ even on here commenting? This is not a place for your ranting! Believers don’t really care what you ‘don’t believe’….we know better, so move along, fools.
I second the motion!
Wow, another enlightened, compassionate, understanding, Bible toting CHRISTIAN heard from......just like all the rest of 'em.
Obviously, because God made us do it.
Because agnostics and atheists like to look down on grownups who believe in magical sky fairies who created the universe but are obsessed over what we do in the bedroom.
Then why ask us to leave? We have just as much right to be here as anyone.
Religion should be a private matter, between an individual and his Creator. Wearing one's religion like a flag says that someone is totally lacking in humility, one of the key Christian values, according to the teachings, which are largely ignored by most so called Christians, except when it suits them.
uhhh....NO! Jesus said ""Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned." Soooooo, there goes your theory!!!
WISDOM4U: He also said to "go into a closet and pray, do not be like the Pharasees who pray on every street corner, to show how pious they are."
Go watch TEBOW if you want to grandstand your Christianity!!!!!
@ dumb Judi Powell
That's not the comment!! It was about keeping 'the Good News' to yourself.....Jesus said to 'Go tell....", so 'they' won't go to HELL. Helloooo
That would have been Mark 16:15. So what does that tell me? Tells me that MARK said that, not Christ and as MARK was not at the crucifixion OR the alleged resurrection...I think Mark is full of s**t. So there goes your theory!!
@ The Dense ~~~~ No one cares what you think about Mark...he's done more than you ever will! haha
I'm not a christian, but Mormonism – Google THE SECRET WORLD OF MORMONISM – is not Christianity. However, there is a very busy Mormon PR machine, and they've been working hard in places like Florida. Those who fall for the PR are just dull witted.
I live in a town where they hold prayer before school board meetings and arrest Atheists for protesting the meetings for violating the establishment clause.
Trust me. Florida is no better than Mississippi or any of the other Southern states that can't grasp the 1st Amendment.
I don't think anyone in florida can spell "evangelical," much less be it.
Clyde apparently knows everything. Thank you for the enlightenment. LOL
Jesus, Jesus, blah blah blah. Religion is a crutch for scared, desperate people who are trying to make their lives mean something. What a bunch of hogwash. You live, you die, you rot. The end.
Duh…well, crutches have always helped the cripples….and Jesus said it’s the sick who needs the physicians, not the well. So, we’re happy that you don’t need any ‘help’ from God….be sure to let us know how that’s working for you when you’re on your death bed.
Yes, and religion is a crutch for the intellectually crippled.
Soooo, we're suppose to apologize for 'leaning' on the Lord? I don't think so!! Bring on the crutches so I can walk!!! Thank you, JESUS!!!
Whatever you choose to be in life, dont be centerist, be radical, I am radical about my faith. The problem with the christian church is were to nice and dont want to offend anyone, and the small percentage of christians who do speak out are labeled intolerant, bigots ect and that is alright with me, the liberals doing this is telling me I am not a moderate, IAM A RADICAL CHRISTIAN AND RADICAL ABOUT MY RADICAL FAITH. PP
You're absolutely right. The essence of religion is to be discriminatory, and to operate on a sense of superiority derived from a privileged understanding of truth. Since there is no merit in religions' arguments, however, that indeed makes you an intolerant bigot.
Jk It is ironic that you can call someone else an intolerant bigot with a straght face.
Is the right so far gone that it is now considered "centrist" to not engage in bigotry?
Bob=Just another anti-Christian bigot doing the hypocrisy thing.
That seems about right. Not being an overt racist and possibly voting for someone of a slightly different religion/denomination is what is being pitched as "different" here.
Evangelicals and conservatives are living and professing a brand of religion far from the teachings of Jesus the Christ. They exclude and condemn while he taught to include and love. Their militant involvement in politics are repulsive at the least. That is what is wrong with islam and they are following down the same dead end path. I follow Jesus but I reject their take on this religion of theirs.
Jesus said to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. You can have the government because they are not the solution to our problem's. Christ is. If God wanted to fix the government he could do so. He does not need the help of man.
The conservative evangelicals take the Bible literally and read prophesy and find prophesy as an essential part of their message wrapped in as their introduction of the importance of being saved i.e. John 3:16 and you must be prepared because Jesus will return soon. So the importance of "self-prophetic" predictions come to pass in the Zionist state is essential which is the reason for the alliance with the Jewish state. There's your explanation why people like Gingrich will defend Israel and promise to help them attack Iran - Newt's a lobbyist for them in my opinion.
Ron Paul would be a good signal to the Middle East that we are more willing now to act more Christ like and stop giving most of our foreign aid to the very people who slayed the one that promotes peace and love the most. go figure
Religion and politics do not mix well. Look at Iran. This fact is lost to the republicans.
What would an atheist know about what Jesus would do...he spent a great deal of time opposing the religious leaders because they condemned and then did not help others get out of sin. Christians offer a hand to those who wish to turn away from sin and follow Jesus.
Getreal Politics and the lack of religion dont mix well either. Check out how many people were slaughtered under atheistic communism (way more than religious people have killed.
@Annie:”Getreal Politics and the lack of religion dont mix well either. Check out how many people were slaughtered under atheistic communism”
If you take a close look at comunisum you will see that it is just another dogmatic, authoritarian, totalitarian, murderous belief system just like islam and christianity
Unfortuntately, religion continues to be the predominate driver of divisiveness/polarization in the US. Hard pressed to think of another G-20 country where religion plays such a big part of the political landscape.
If you are not an American then it really isn't any of your business is it? There's your sign
Let's revisit this conversation in 100 years.
Therein lies part of the problem....myopia.
It's obvious that most if not all those who are anti-Christian on this site do not have a clue what Christ or Chritianity is all about.
the forefathers of this country would never allow evangelical losers vote for a president
The forefather's of this country were. In God We Trust.
Considering that they were mostly Masons, I find that hard to believe. Jefferson did his own take on the Bible. Washington had visions and followed the inner teachings of adepts. Fundamentalism could not have allowed that.