Evangelical voters make up a very sizable portion of the electorate in several Southern and Midwestern states. In my last post, I pointed out that the endorsement of Rick Santorum by several evangelical leaders signaled a shift in attitudes. Apparently, that endorsement changed few minds.
The polls have closed, and the people of South Carolina have spoken. South Carolina is a state with many evangelicals, and exit polls indicated that 65% of the people that voted today claimed to be evangelical Christians. Apparently, that whole Santorum endorsement thingie didn't really work out too terribly well for the former Senator from Pennsylvania.
One thing is for sure according to the exit polls from both South Carolina and Iowa, evangelicals are still not overly enthused about voting for a Mormon for president, as a pastor's endorsement of Rick Perry in October predicted. Romney got 14% of the evangelical vote in Iowa, and his support rose to only 22% in SC, in spite of the dropping out of self-proclaimed evangelicals Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, who combined for 20% of the evangelical vote in Iowa. Only 21% of evangelicals voted for Santorum in SC, in spite of the endorsement by some of their prominent leaders. This is not the biggest surprise, however.
The biggest surprise, in my opinion, coming out of the South Carolina primary was the number of evangelicals who supported Newt Gingrich. 44% of evangelicals supported the former Speaker of the House, while only the 22% mentioned above supported Romney. For non-evangelicals, Romney got 38% of the vote, while Gingrich only got 33%.
Christianity emphasizes personal righteousness. Evangelicals tend to pay serious lip service to this idea. Only 18% of the voters in SC claimed that strong moral character was the main trait that they were looking for in a candidate. If all of the these people were evangelicals, 47% find moral character as a secondary consideration to beating Barack Obama or someone having the right experience (Harry Truman did not have the right experience, but most historians and laymen consider him well above average when it comes to leadership). While I understand that people can change and that there is redemption, I personally have to question the judgment of a serial adulterer who was kicked out of a Congress controlled by his own party for ethics charges. The average person on the street considers Congressman/woman and ethics as an oxymoron, and this very body, Congress, kicked the Speaker out for ethics, all while his party had a solid majority. His dealings with Fannie and Freddie have also come under fire. That's not even mentioning the allegations his wife brought up this week.
But, hey, that's apparently better than having a Mormon as presidential candidate.