Social conservatives post-Huckabee

Guess whose photo appears right underneath an article in the latest edition of The Economist with the headline, “The silence … Continued

Guess whose photo appears right underneath an article in the latest edition of The Economist with the headline, “The silence of the right: Social conservatives and the tea-party movement are still waiting for their candidate in the Republican nomination race”?

Chip Somodevilla


WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 24: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at the National Press Club February 24, 2011 in Washington, DC.

With Mike Huckabee out of the presidential race, there is much debate about which candidate will garner the bulk of the social conservative vote in the upcoming Republican nominating contest. Why is this segment of Republican primary voters so crucial? Numbers don’t lie. ABC’s former polling director Gary Langer found that, “In 2008, self-identified evangelical Christians constituted 44 percent of all Republican presidential primary voters.”

If those numbers are not enough to convince you about the impact of social conservative voters, take a look at the map here and focus on the percentages in states like Ohio, Florida, Texas, and even California.

In a field missing the former Baptist minister, turned governor, turned national candidate, turned cable news host, the social conservative vote is up for grabs like never before. True, not all social conservatives, especially those outside the South, voted for Huckabee in 2008 and plenty more have become what my friend David Brody from CBN News calls “Teavangelicals.” These newly classified evangelical voters are looking for a candidate with solid social issue credentials combined with a questionable commitment to the implementation of tea party-style economic policy and federal government reforms. There was already some evidence that this group – the dominant force in tea party politics – was weary of Huckabee’s fiscal record as governor of Arkansas.

Moments after Huckabee announced that he was not running, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty did not waste any time making his intentions known to a group of voters who had just lost their candidate. Governor Pawlenty said, “I plan to work hard to earn the support of the millions of Americans who have supported him.” There is no doubt that Pawlenty will need social conservatives to propel his campaign to a high-priority Iowa Caucus victory. Huckabee won Iowa because of social conservative voters, and Pawlenty chose Iowa to make his formal entry into the Republican presidential primary.

While Pawlenty is viewed as a top tier candidate in the GOP field and one who should benefit from Huckabee’s absence, he will be competing with well-known social conservative favorites like Rick Santorum,
Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and potentially Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Evangelicals will get a good look at all of these candidates – those who have made it official and others who are still waiting to formally announce – when they appear next month at what is now the most influential social conservative event to kickoff the 2012 presidential election: the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference and Strategy Briefing on June 3rd and 4th in Washington, DC.

Ralph Reed, chairman of the coalition, pointed out in an email to me that, “The Faith and Freedom Conference will witness the very first time every one of the major GOP contenders will be on the same stage in the 2012 election cycle. These candidates will be making the case to tea party members and social conservative voters about why they are best suited to lead the charge against President Obama next year.”

All of the serious contenders will be speaking directly to social conservatives, many who are now “Teavangelicals” whether they know it or not.

Mitt Romney – who made real inroads with social conservative voters in 2008, Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and the potential candidate of the moment, Paul Ryan, are all participating because they know the social conservative vote can make or break their campaign.

After the conference, we can move from speculating about who social conservatives are interested in to a much more important question:

Will a sizeable majority of social conservatives get behind one or two candidates now or keep their support scattered amongst the GOP field until the race tightens?

  • MidwaySailor76

    It ought to be entertaining watching the whiplash that ensues when the Republican who wins the primaries has to make himself presentable to general election voters. I never thought a neck brace was a good look for a candidate.

  • falcon269

    The anti-intellectualism of the Republican party is wearing thin. The nation does not want to be run by Joe the Plumber, or some nut case that does not believe in evolution. Take a hike, Huck.

  • Andersod7

    The Teavangelicals did not “tire” of Mike Huckabee. He tired of waiting for the Republican elite to come to him. They would not do it because they will not support a candidate they cannot control. He saw that he could not win in 2012 without them and decided not to run.

    Too bad, because he was the only Republican with a chance to defeat the incumbent. Now the Republicans will have to wait another four years. I suspect Huckabee will run in 2016 with or without party support, and will be elected by a landslide.

  • Andersod7

    Anti-intellectualism is shown in the argument that Huckabee does not believe in evolution. Huckabee is, in fact, extremely bright, having gone through 4 years of college in 2.5 years. He stated on national TV that he does not know how long it took God to create the world, or the mechanism he used. Neither does anyone else. Those who would demean him because of his southern heritage should examine his record more closely.

  • YEAL9

    The Immoral Majority, those 76+ million “mothers and fathers” of slain growing babies put BO in the White House and will do so again in 2012.

    And all because 76+ million “women and men” either forgot to take their daily Pill or left their condoms in their pocket. No Respect-for-Life/Conservative candidate has a chance in 2012.

  • persiflage

    Following Huckabee’s well-known protestations against Darwin’s evolutionary theory, It begins to look like every presidential candidate should be tested with regard to their beliefs in creationism vs evolution. It seems that neither money nor education completely prevent or thwart mythical belief systems. This is all well and good, unless you’re parading religious beliefs as part of your political platform.

    Without the basic conviction that evolution is true, how could any candidate be seen as supporting science? Failing in a broad support for science and scientific research, the USA would soon become a global laughingstock – this actually began to happen while the Bush administration held forth.

    The fact is, any republican candidate is potentially a threat to the forward momentum of science if they hew to the party line – and how could they not??
    Pandering to religion equals votes – and while the democrats are not immune, republicans tend to make religion part of their political agenda. In the end though, everyone eventually goes under the bus with the GOP – if they’re not members of the ruling class.

    Huckabee is making money hand over fist, so why would he risk all of that for another failed attempt at the presidency?? Romney already has it, so he’s clearly the logical choice.

  • dshueyfpfcu

    Karl Marx:

    Your name fits you doesn’t it? Your comments are a joke! It is people like you that got O’bama elected with further proof that we are headed for a socialist, marxist government where all you radicals want everyone’s hands out because we will be all one class-poor. We will not have any successful business people cause you’ll want to tax them 100% of their money! Yea, that really worked. No wonder our Good Lord is shaking His head at the people on earth.

    Hey, I’ve got a good book for you to read — it is full of lust, greed, powerplays, homosexuality, and murder — it’s called the Bible! And it’s NOT FANTASY!

  • mrcrider

    It appears for decades we talk and, we talk and, we talk and, all the while we continue to keep going in the same direction so that we’ll have something to talk about. Could it be that there really is some one who we could talk to that really does have all the answers to what we need to change. Could his name be JESUS the son of GOD and could it be that we need to change in order to here what he has to say about any matter. “OUCH”. BE BLESSED. K.E.C.

  • mrcrider

    GOD is the Judge. The devil is a liar,a persacuter,a thief,a murderer.a coward ect. The man is in the middle and, he is the decideing wittness. We will choose this day who we will serve. There is no middle ground. My choice is GOD through his SON JESUS THE CHRIST. Who has already won the war and, it is and, will be as he has spoken. That should’nt be hard for anyone. K.E.C. PS Lets do what he tells us and, then the job is already done. The answer before the problem means there will be no problem. AMEN. SO.IT.BE.

  • sclauther

    I know that this will be lost to someone like you, but evolutionism is not akin to science. Science deals with that which is testable and repeatable. Evolution is not. It is a philosophical opinion (i.e., the “fact” that nonliving matter suddenly turned into everything we see by blind chance) masquerading as “science.”

    The only reason that evolutionism is still textbook orthodoxy despite its many holes (if you are openminded, as any good liberal should be, I would suggest that you take a look at Phillip E. Johnson’s book “Darwin on Trial” to see what I am talking about) is because without evolutionism, atheism crumbles.

  • persiflage

    I would suggest that you ask virtually any scientist how they view evolutionary theory. Fact, fiction, or philosophical speculation?

    Evolutionary theory has been supported by so much scientific data from different and various science specialties that it is one of the premiere and fundamental theories of science – on a par with the theory of gravity and Einstein’s theories of general and special relativity.

    The few scientists that have issues with evolutionary theory (and I’ve read their dissembling nonsense) are so hypnotized by the religious fictions of Christianity that their credibility as scientists is null and void.

    Where were you when the science books were passed out?
    Nose deep in the bible, I suspect…… that is metaphyics of the first degree.

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