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.
@Ayn Rant – you nailed it. They are political Christians. It is those same Christians that have corrupted the Republican Party. There is seperation of church and state for a reason in the country for a reason. Why, now, do we have to have evangelicals tell us what we, as a country, should do?
I second your question.
GMA Well they have a legal right to vote. Do you thing they should not vote?
Perhaps you are confused about who is doing the corrupting. Corruption is a term of judgment. We all know that liberals are never judgmental. So how can you even use the term corruption?
Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian
10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.
While I am not avid supporter of atheism, I can understand the validity of your observations. I have to admit, I am a product of my environment when it comes to religious beliefs. My parents were adamant regarding their christianity, and when I was younger I accepted their slant on God. As the years have gone by, an education (formal and informal), have changed the way I view christianity. but somehow I cannot break away from the feeling that there is some type of higher power. I do not know nor can I identify what that power is. That being said, I firmly oppose those individuals who support hatred, bigotry, and murder while hiding behind some religious dogma. I firmly disavow anyone who states their beliefs are the only "right" beliefs when the topic is religion (this includes those of any religion as well as the atheist). I feel fortunate to have an eclectic group of friends....catholics, muslims, buddhist, christians, atheists and agnostics. None of us feel the need to ridicule each other regarding our different views and for that I feel very fortunate.
Actually a fundamentalist is anyone who believes the Bible is the true word of God. Christian and fundamentalist Christian mean the same thing. The false dicotomy is something created by non Christians to divide the faithful.
Who's the @$$wipe in charge of censoring the comments?
A computer program. No one is out to get you.
Prayer changes things
My heart rejoices in the Lord
My mouth boasts over my enemies
For I delight in Gods deliverance
Prayer changes things
I call bullshit.
Prayer changes things
Do not keep talking so proudly
Or let your mouth speak such arrogance
For the Lord is a God who knows
And by Him deeds are weighed
Prayer changes things
It's funny: If I were to state that "Christianity is not healthy for children and other living things," all you folks would go apoplexic that I was being disrespectful to your religion. What a bunch of hypocrites you are!
We keep praying that you'll stop pasting this same post over and over but it never stops. What more proof does anyone need that prayer does not work?
the delusional troll is back with its same rhetorical nonsense. 🙂
Gee, when I was in Sunday School, we were always taught that one should only say a prayer to God once. Repeating it meant that you didn't trust God the first time. Hmmmmmmm....
a call to prayer is not in itself a prayer, prayer is conversation with God
"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.”
AMEN! But I'm still voting for Ron Paul, sorry.
Well some of them actually support Gingrich – a man who cheated on his wives (and will probably dump the present one in the future). That fact, and the 1997 discipline against him while he was Speaker of the House, shows his true character. Why would you support a man like that – Are religious people just not too smart? Independent voters win elections, not the right or the left so if the Republicans want half a chance, they should go with Rommey. I will vote for Obama, but I think it will be a good contest.
Of course religious people are not TOO smart. That's why they're relgious!!!!
Of course if you were so smart, you would have realized that Newt was later found to be innocent of the ethics charges by the IRS. Typical liberal trying to pretend to be smart and all knowing, when you are blind babes fumbling in the dark.
It's sad to see all the anger and juvenile responses. Have your opinions but express them like a mature adult. (buy bull, Chris tards)? Seriously?
yes, buybull-it's what you do when you buy into the bullsh!t of the book! christards=not at all juvenile when they believe in juvenile imaginary friends...in the real world, hearing voices is call a mental health issue
The posts here make me wonder if some of these people should be allowed to vote.
The Bible is the truth. How do I know? It says so in the bible!!
Beautiful circle you drew there, now tell us the value of Pi with it.
You guys are silly. How do I know? I just said it!
Um, I think he's being sarcastic, folks.....
Truth is He was, He is and He always will be...end of story. Each and every soul that has ever been WILL be face to face with Him one day....You're going to be very humbled when you find out that He is real.....whether you believe it or not we will all be judged one day. No way around it....I pity the one who ignores Him because He won't ignore you.....Many won't believe this now...we are all one heartbeat away from eternity...where do you want to spend yours.1 Corinthians 2:14: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." Men love the darkness (John 3:19).
your first words were "truth is" ... can you verify this 'truth' .. and do it WITHOUT using your little moldy oldie 2000 year old book? What makes your 'god' any more real than the gods of the ancient world? You'll say those weren't real, right? Ok then, why should yours be? And you CANNOT use your buy-BULL as any kind of evidence ... give me something that can be used in a court that adheres to the rules of evidence. Your book cannot be used because it cannot be verified. What else do you have?
Naw, I am waitng for some dingbat to follow – Numbers 31:17-18: Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
In the words of Walter (Jeff Dunham's puppet) .. I don't want 72 vir'gins ... I want 72 slu-t-ty broads who know what the hell they are doing!! 😉
TRUE! Is reponse to the Child of Christ not those who replied. I wonder why the name of JESUS threatens so many people? Why the hatred or denial of JESUS?
If you think that your dead guy jesus is the son of 'god' and had a mortal mother, then you had better profess your belief in Hercules as well .. he was reputed to have been born of Zeus (king of the gods) and a mortal mother too. If you don't believe in Hercules, why believe this jesus guy?
Re: mirosal, because Jesus is a matter of historical record in the same way that Caesar Augustus and Mohammed were. Hercules is truly mythical.
There is NO MORE proof that Ole Jeebus existed than there is of Hercules. The Bible is proof of nothing.
you are in for a big disappointment when the time comes... of course you will not know.
Letter to Souppanians, Joe 1:345
using the buy-BULL as historical reference is like using a Cheminstry book for Phys. Ed. It isn't going to work ... got any other evidence of him actually drawing breath?
So the 60% of embryos that die in the womb, they will come face to face with Jesus on judegement day right? Just how will they be judged? Will there be huge pile of embryos in heaven or in hell?
As long as Florida voters do not vote for Newt, I dont care what diety they believe in.
Same old religious garbage never changes if they blow themselves up or if they try to take over a country by voting same difference.
The founding fathers said keep church and state seprate but no Americans don't listen. Well, when the preist or minister or rabi comes and calls you a heritic don't cry its your own fault.
There never was such a thing as "separation between church and state" Never really existed. Thats the problem. This man invented thing was put there lead by satan to cause disruption and chaos among politicians and christians.There needs to be godly men in the political arena. If there has always been as our for fathers were, then this country wouldn't be in the state that it is in now.
The subject of the article is merely a very immature Christain, as many Christains are. The New Testament does not explain in simple langauge what the purpose of Jesus' death and ressurection was all about. Basically, every religion, except Chistainity is based upon the belief that contolling our flesh and thought, as well as following certain practice, will be enough to satisfy God's demands. Christainity involves a re-built of your spirit and a spiritual relationship with Jesus. In that relationship your spirit is changed and matured, but it is a narrow path we walk. A walk that is often imperfect. But, because of the spiritual nature of Christainity, there is no other means to touch God or achieve salvation. Only a few achieve it. Sorry, but you have to die to yourself, and not in merely controlling you flesh.
Only the Tea Party Network (CNN) would term any inkling of tolerance "social liberalism."
Truly a weird article. Parsing anyone's faith to determine political results might be a clever idea but I wouldn't I wouldn't put too much stock in it.
You said, "God gunna git yu fo sayin' he fake!"
He's a figment of your imagination (well, in your case he's probably the figment of someone else's imagination). The odds that there are gods are extremely small. The odds that yours exist are smaller still.
Now, on the off chance that he does exist, he is said to be omniscient (that's "all knowing" for the simpler folks among us). If he's omniscient, he knows where to find me. He can "git" me whenever he feels like. Since he hasn't yet, I can only conclude that he doesn't exist and that you are full of shit.
Stop calling them "conservative" Christians! They are political Christians, a bunch of scripturally ignorant, self-righteous, hard-hearted, mean-spirited followers of Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, and the sainted Jerry Falwell.
I like the way you think!
Ayn R. I agree. I am a sometimes Republican – but these people are mean spirited, small minded and spiteful. I can not believe they call themselves Christians. I also wonder what bible they are reading.
Even Jesus knew not to mix politic and his faith! Luke 20:
21And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:
22Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?
23But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?
24Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's.
25And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.
26And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.
Nicely said Deep North. Jesus built relationships with the 12 closest to him, so that they could go share the true Gospel, The Living Word of God.
You'd have to prove Jesus said any of that stuff to make in believable. Given that no-one wrote about this supposed man until after he had been dead for 30 plus years means that not one of them could accurately state anything he might have said.
Truth...To go there you would have to go into what Faith means. If you don't have it, then the words of the Bible are foolishness to you. Sorry.
What evidence is there that he even existed in the first place? And you CANNOT use the buy-BULL as your source.
Mirosal.. My job is not to convince you. You obviously have been introduced to the Word. You have made a conscious
choice to ignore it. We'll leave it at that and each enjoy our fates as they may lay.
It isn't the fact that I ignore it, it's the fact that I treat it as it is, a work of fiction written by dozens of men over the span of a thousand years. As for being "introduced" to it, yeah, you could call it that, but I prefer 'indoctrinated' as it is more accurate. Over a decade trapped by the Jesuits. I KNOW what your little book says, and you do NOT need the guidance of some imaginary being to live your life. Just live within the laws of the land, provide for you and yours, and never forget to laugh and share the laughter.
They seek a sign (evidence proof). There shall be none given.
You said, "To go there you would have to go into what Faith means. If you don't have it, then the words of the Bible are foolishness to you."
You touch on a big part of the problem. In essence you say that you have to believe, to believe. You say that if you don't already believe, it's all nonsense. I would have to agree.
For a rational person there is no way in. The stories are so outrageously unbelievable that suspension of disbelief is virtually impossible. If you don't already accept, a priori, that the holy book (of whatever religion) is the word of the associated deity, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to start believing.
To a lesser extend, I expect the same to hold true for followers of a different religion, or even those of a different branch of the same.
@Deep North: Faith is believing without evidence, nothing more. You can't pull that on any rational minded person. We probably know more about your buybull than you do or we wouldn't be Atheists. You can't put any other spin on the meaning of faith...dictionaries define words, not you or any other believer. So what you're doing is being lazy and accepting things without evidence, now maybe that doesn't matter to you but it does to us and we insist and will keep insisting that it is kept out of the public-our schools, our governments, off of our streets-basically anything that is paid for by tax payer dollars (churches do not pay taxes, so they get no say in anything). We are not the ones claiming a god exists, therefore the burden of proof lies on you and for years many of us have been waiting for that evidence and yet not a single one of you can provide it outside of repeating buybull verses that make your argument circular. You are just lazy...you allowed the belief in an unknown to think for you...what a horribly sad life you live!
If you have time to debate the existence of God then you are thinking about God which is a good thing.
Thinking about how screwed up our world has been as the result of people believing in god maybe but not in the least thinking about it as anything more than the fictional character it is!! Only children and schizophrenics have imaginary friends...so which of those are you?
Re: Truth Prevails...your view of public administration would frighten even the most jaded of our public servants. Your statement above regarding censure of any public statement of faith silences the rights of a great many – not just christians.
@TruthPrevails – read Father Robert Spitzer's PROOFS (he's a scientist and a clergyman) on God's existence – since you're so smart.
@TruthPrevails – just because they didn't WRITE DOWN what Jesus said for 30+ years doesn't mean they couldn't accurately state what he said. They passed information on through oral tradition until it became necessary to write it down. In fact, the consistent messages within the 4 gospels is supporting evidence that the overall message was accurately received and conveyed.
If one has to base one's life on a work of fiction, I'd choose Joseph Heller's "Catch-22". Most everything you need to know about human hypocracy, mediocrity and duplicity is illuminated therein. The 2000 year old Bible can't compete for style, humor, use of metaphor and symbolism. I now worship Yossarian, and like him, my goal is to escape to Sweden..
Ahhh, the old 'your faith is nothing but fiction' argument. There's nothing like the classics. You even managed to slip in a Catch-22 reference. Extra points for that. Seriously though – you might want to consider a new saw. That one you're using now is getting a little dull.
To all believers and non-believers of any sect, movement, congregation, or anything else, just STAY OF OF MY FACE on the street corner, at my front door, in my bank, grocery store, and anywhere I have unmistakably signaled I don't want your intrusion into my very small space.
@ Sambo .. that would be like telling me to watch out for werewolves, vampires, Bigfoot, Loch Ness monster, aliens, UFO's, ghosts sppoks spectres and goblins .... none of it is real, including this moder-day 'god'. Why be scared of something that doesn't exist?
Sambo .. ask yourself something ... think of all the 'gods' that man has worshipped for thousands upon thousands of years. Zeus, Apollo, Thor, Odin, Osiris, Isis et. al. Are/Were they real? Once you realize why you've dismissed those deities, you'll know why I dismiss the current modern-day one.
@mirosal: my dear friend, speaking to Sambo is quite apparently like speaking to my newborn nephew...there is no comprehension. Sambo is a troll and a liar! Earlier Sambo said that he/she confirms god exists...that in itself means it can't be trusted...any honest christian will never state that they can confirm god exists or knows for sure...just like any honest atheist will state that as much as we don't believe a god(s) exists, we can't be 100% sure-the difference is they accept god exists based on their book of fairy tales, we ask for the evidence (at least we're being intelligent about it 🙂 ).
ok m'lady 🙂 ... Sambo suffers from cranial-rectal inversion (head up his ass). maybe its parents can do a late late late LATE term abortion on it lol
One could only hope. 🙂 Or better yet, maybe its god will prove it exists, come down from its throne, present itself to numerous people, then take Sambo, order it beaten to death, then take its hand while it descends to the gates of their hell (god apparently doesn't like liar's, so Sambo has sinned).
maybe 'it' will be raptured!!!! lol we already know its brain is ruptured
Why does JESUS threaten you?
What is it about JESUS that threatens you?
And what is it about reality that scares you? Nothing about this character you call jesus can scare me or Mirosal, we simply reject that it might have been anything more than an average man that potentially existed but did nothing note worthy. You do realize that you are speaking to peopel who know more than you possibly could wish to about this brainwashing scheme...right? I say we know more because we allowed ourselves to open our minds and didn't stop looking for answers whereas by accepting the buybull as truth you have closed your mind to reality and the real answers.
Oh I am not threatened by your jesus guy. The threat comes from those who invoke that name to get what THEY want and subjigate us all under an archaic moldy book whose source cannot bwe verified. THAT is the real threat. Your jesus guy is as threatening as a werewolf or vampire, and only Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are afraid of those.
@Mirosal: Paul is a poster child for the APA...totally delusional and in serious need to mental health help! I have to get off of this blog and get ready for work...chat with you on FB later tonight or tomorrow...we can laugh at all these stupid christards then :-). Have an amazing day my friend!