It comes down to South Carolina.
Mitt Romney gave Evangelicals a bloody nose in Iowa and everyone knew he would win New Hampshire, but South Carolina is the line in the sand. If Romney wins South Carolina, Evangelicals are done and the rest of the primaries become a big Romney celebration.
It doesn’t look good for Evangelicals. The New York Times shows Romney favored in South Carolina with almost 32% supporting him. Newt Gingrich, who is hardly a darling of the Evangelicals is second with 24% and Rick Santorum is running a poor third with 19.5%. The problem is that Evangelicals seem to have an attention span of three year-old when it comes to supporting a candidate. Santorum’s dramatic showing in Iowa was likely because he became the Iowa Evangelical flavor of the week at the perfect moment.
Evangelicals flaw, …well, one of them, is that they have an absurd concept of what government should be and they are so passionate about their vision of owning “that which is Caesar’s” that they aren’t aware that most Americans don’t like their ‘we-know-best’ piety. Evangelicals want to hear what they want to hear and desperate Conservative politicians, like Newt Gingrich, are happy to deliver and bow down to them.
So Evangelicals are on a constant search for the next political Messiah, then drop them as quickly as they found him or her (let’s not forget Bachmann…Michele Bachmann…remember? The one with the crazy, I’m-going-to-eat-you look? Google ‘Bachmann’ and you’ll remember her.)
The problem for Romney is that Evangelicals are married to their fantasy candidate and Romney is not, nor will be ‘it’, so getting them to vote in November is unlikely. For Romney, a South Carolina win will end the political involvement by many Social Conservative voters and leave him with two-thirds or less of the Republican party to support his bid for the White House. The scenario for Romney becomes worse if Ron Paul remains a player, but the Republican Achilles has enough heel-biters to deal with for now.
A version of this article first published as
Evangelical’s Line In The Sand: South Carolina