Who Will Be the Candidate of Religious Voters?

I know it’s early. But the Iowa caucuses are only 13 months away. And there is still not candidate for Christian voters (i.e. religious right). You’ve seen the same polls I have: the front-runners are McCain, Giuliani, Romney. Here’s what I write in my new New York Sun column: “Each of the three candidates often cited as having front-runner status for the conservative vote, Senator McCain, Mayor Giuliani, and Governor Romney, has a unique problem that could prevent him from garnering unified support in the evangelical community, typically an important building block in winning the Republican nomination.” Of these, I think Romney has the best chance to capture these voters — particularly in the West.

Marvin Olasky, a former Bush adviser, has nice things to say about Senator Brownback of Kansas, who seems to gathering some traction among Evangelicals.

An opportunity exists for a smart Democrat, such as Barack Obama, to peel off some of these voters. Obama began the effort by appearing at a the World AIDS Day Summit at Saddleback Church in California. Remember also that when he ran in 1992, Bill Clinton was very much as Southern Baptist, and his wife, Senator Clinton, is a Methodist, a member of the same faith to which President Bush belongs.

Gary Bauer, a former presidential candidate, cautions that just because Obama can, in effect, talk church, doesn’t mean conservative voters will go for him. Policy positions on how to best fight poverty matter, he says. Good point. But at this point, I think the lack of unity around a candidate is good for the Democrats.

ADD. E.J. Dionne writes about Obama’s appearance at the church in his column today in The Washington Post. Dionne sees the significance in the event in being “a significant group of theologically conservative Christians no longer wants to be treated as a cog in the Republican political machine”.


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