As South Carolina Republicans headed to the polls Saturday, an all too-simple storyline emerged in the press. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister who won the Iowa caucus, would have the evangelical vote, while Arizona Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War hero, would win defense conservatives. “It’s the Christian soldiers vs. the retired soldiers,” one observer summed up for the Wall Street Journal.
But McCain captured a quarter of evangelical voters when he won yesterday’s GOP primary according to exit polls, while Huckabee won only 40%. A recent conversation with Rich Cizik, who heads up governmental affairs for the 30-million member National Association of Evangelicals, reveals that Christian voters are a more complicated voting block than the media seems to realize. Cizik speaks unhappily about the GOP under the Bush administration. “This has been an unholy alliance in which the evangelicals have given everything and gotten nothing in return.” But, he says, “It’s quite obvious that the next Republican in the White House will likely be someone with a very different attitude… John McCain or Mike Huckabee, at least in the case of those two, would be much more sympathetic.” (Cizik was speaking for himself, not for the NAE, which does not endorse candidates.)