Michigan primaries: Romney wins among evangelicals
Complaints continue over exit polls asking only Republicans whether they are evangelical/born again. The question was omitted again last night in Michigan's Democratic primary. The exit polls, in fact, didn't ask Democrats any religion questions. But it hardly matters: The national Democratic Party says Michigan's votes won't count at the convention because the state moved its primary too early. Obama and Edwards weren't even on the ballot. That's not to say the Democratic exit poll numbers don't have anything to say. More than two-thirds of black voters in the state chose "uncommitted" over Clinton. Pundits are wondering if the Clinton campaign "may have reason to worry about her grasp on the African-American vote." Has the recent squabble over Clinton's comments on Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson hurt?
And speaking of attention-garnering statements, did Huckabee's "change the Constitution" comments hurt him in the Michigan primary? It's hard to tell. Huckabee did see a slight uptick after the comments, but still lost evangelical voters to Mitt Romney. (Exit poll data available from CNN and MSNBC.) Among Republicans who identified themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, 34 percent voted for Romney, 29 percent voted for Huckabee, and 23 percent voted for McCain. Evangelical turnout was significant: 4 out of 10 Republicans identified themselves as born-again or evangelical. In past polls, about 18 percent of Michigan residents have identified themselves as evangelicals.
Romney took the non-evangelical vote, too, with 39 percent of the vote (McCain had 34 percent, Huckabee a mere 8 percent. Even Ron Paul did better than Huckabee, with 9 percent of the non-evangelical vote). In fact, the only areas where Huckabee did particularly well was with voters who said abortion should illegal in all cases, those who attend church more than weekly (Romney ran away with the weekly attenders, McCain was a clear favorite of the nonattenders), and those for whom the candidate's religious beliefs "matter a great deal."
Romney actually did quite a bit better in Michigan than he has elsewhere among voters who say the candidate's religious beliefs matter somewhat (41 percent vs. 31 percent in New Hampshire and 26 percent in Iowa). Remember that in New Hampshire, the non-born-again Episcopalian-Baptist McCain won the "candidate's religious views matter a great deal" vote. One wonders how people are hearing this question; where are they putting the apostrophe? Are they saying their candidate's religious views matter a great deal? Or are they saying that the other candidates' religious views matter a great deal? Earlier, political analysts were suggesting that Romney's Mormonism might be a liability to his campaign. Now one wonders if Huckabee's religious statements are a liability as well. As CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand's said, Romney's win might not be the biggest story from the Michigan primary. "[T]he biggest momentum out of Michigan may not go to the winner, but to the story of an election eve comment from third-place Mike Huckabee, still resonating as the contest moves south."