In 2000, Al Gore got 29 percent of white voters who attended church weekly. Four years ago, John Kerry got an identical 29 percent of the same group. So, for the last four years Democrat strategists have worked at trying to peel off enough of those voters to swing a close election their way.
Today a Gallup poll puts support for Barack Obama among this group at . . . wait for it . . . 28%.
No Democratic nominee in the modern day has made more of an effort to court religious voters than Obama. Jimmy Carter, a Southern evangelical, was the last Democrat to narrowly contest weekly church-going voters in a two-man race. But where Carter attempted to deemphasize his faith in the 1976 campaign, Obama has repeatedly returned to his faith to narrow the so-called God gap that has dogged Democrats for decades.
The party’s primary saw repeated and unprecedented events emphasizing faith, such as the Compassion Forum a little more than a week before the Pennsylvania vote. In the general election, in no less unprecedented form, the first event attended by the two candidates was not a presidential debate but a forum on religion and cultural politics at an evangelical megachurch.
Many will likely write the failure of these efforts off to latent racism among white Christians. But how then does one explain the fact that white guys Kerry and Gore got virtually identical margins? Of course, the real answer is, “It’s the ideology, stupid.” The old statist,Â government-as-false-messiah policies of the past don’t suddenly become appealing just because Nancy Pelosi awkwardly uses some biblical language.
And if there were some Bush values voters out there who were considering switching sides, I suspect that seeing what Sarah Palin was subjected to put an end to that.
Of course, Barack Obama may not need any additional votes from this group this time around. And if this poll holds up, he won’t be getting them.