Daniel Henninger is not the only columnist to note what the president has done to motivate evangelical Christians in this year’s election, but I like the way he writes about it. “Romney’s Secret Voting Bloc” is something of a miracle. “There and in other swing states—Wisconsin, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida—the evangelical vote is flying beneath the media’s radar. It’s a lot of voters not to notice. In the 2008 presidential vote, they were 30% of the vote in Ohio, 31% in Iowa and 26% in Wisconsin.”
Romney has the president to thank for bringing out the evangelical vote.
The president of Ohio Christian University, Mark A. Smith, says, “The intensity of voters in the faith community is as high as I’ve seen it in the last 12 years.” The driver of that intensity is religious liberty. “We took a direct hit with the Affordable Care Act,” he says. Evangelicals watched the Obama administration’s big public fight with Catholic hospitals and charities. What they concluded is that the health-care law was a direct threat to their own private outreach programs.
Mr. Smith says that if evangelicals in Ohio’s rural communities repeat their turnout levels from 2000 and 2004, they will offset the Obama advantage in Cuyahoga County. “Six different faith groups are out there” for Romney in Ohio, he says. “That didn’t happen the last time.”
Henninger’s focus is Ohio, my home state (and his) and what he is noting is also my experience. Christians around here were not enthused about Romney in the primary, partly because he is a Mormon. Now he is their candidate and they forgive his Mormonism, as they are resistant to the alternative; they are voting what they believe his values are. This is not just true in Ohio.
In his campaign and his presidency, Barack Obama has been explicit about a historic enlargement of the nation’s public economy. For anyone whose life consists of making a living in private work and donating off-hours to private charity and private worship, there is a sense of being squeezed by this president. And among these are evangelical Christians.
That Romney will have a hard time with the kind of bipartisan effort to revive the economy and do all the other things he says he wants to do it certainly true. That is American politics, maybe a flaw, but inherent in our politics.