Huckabee Voters: Will They Show?
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Will Mike Huckabee have a problem even among his base, the faithful, in South Carolina?
Exit polls show some differences in the Republican primary electorate since Iowa, where political experts had predicted about 40 percent of caucusgoers would be evangelical or born-again Christians, that suggest he will not be able to be as reliant on faith voters in the states ahead.
In Iowa, born-again and evangelical Christians turned out in higher-than-expected numbers; more than 60 percent of caucusgoers in Iowa placed themselves in one of those categories, according to entrance polling, and almost half of them caucused for him.
But in New Hampshire, only about one-fifth of GOP primary voters were evangelical Christians, about the same number as in 2000. And in Michigan, more than one-third of voters were evangelicals -- also what pollsters had expected entering the contest.
Huckabee's aides attribute the difference to the months they spent organizing home-school families, pastors and other groups in Iowa to create a strong turnout operation -- one that they haven't been able to replicate in other states, thanks to the compressed calendar.
Beyond turnout, the exit and entrance polls suggest another problem for Huckabee. In Iowa, Huckabee took 46 percent of the evangelicals who turned out, compared to 19 percent for Romney. But in New Hampshire, Romney, Huckabee and McCain tied among evangelicals, all collecting a bit less than 30 percent. In Michigan, exit polls showed Romney with 34 percent of support of the evangelicals there, compared to 29 percent for Huckabee.
South Carolina, where the Pew Research Center estimates more than half of the voters in the GOP primary will be white evangelical Christians, is a key state for Huckabee and will be a major test of his appeal. Huckabee has sought to build the kind of organization in South Carolina he had in Iowa, as much of his staff including his campaign manager are in the state, but they have had a much shorter time to organize than they had in Iowa.
A higher-than-average turnout among conservative Christians could still help the former governor -- if they choose to vote for him.
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