Are evangelical voters giving a ‘blank check’ to Roy Moore?
Roy Moore has been a darling among the Protestant evangelical voter ever since his first social crusade in refusing to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery.
The former state chief justice is a favorite speaker at Christian conferences, and is scheduled to talk on Tuesday at the 41st annual "God Save America" revival conference at Walker Springs Road Baptist Church in Jackson.
Could that base of loyalists waver in the firestorm created by the Washington Post’s revelations Thursday?
Recent history suggests that it’s unlikely, although a poll released Friday indicated that the Republican Senate nominee overall support may have been weakened.
"They are not going to be conflicted on this issue," said Jonathan Gray, a Republican political strategist based in coastal Alabama. "The people of Alabama are tired of being run over by liberal policies and the federal government over how many ounces of soft drink you can have and the reckless abandonment over what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to the point where if they were shoved into a corner and that it was a choice between Satan or (a Democrat), they would take Satan."
The Decision Desk HQ poll sampling of 515 likely Senate voters showed Moore and his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, in a tie. The poll was the first taken after the Post’s report Thursday describing inappropriate behavior on Moore’s part 40 years ago with a series of teenage girls.
But among the likely voters who identified themselves as evangelical, Moore held at least a 20-percentage-point advantage, according to the Decision Desk HQ poll. And the vast majority of those evangelical voters admitted to having heard or read news stories about the allegations outlined in the Washington Post report.
The Moore story comes a little more than one year after The Washington Post reported on a "Access Hollywood" tape in which Donald Trump was talking about inappropriate sexual contact with women. That, too, sparked a political and media firestorm. And within weeks, Trump won the presidential election.
In Alabama, Trump crushed Hillary Clinton by a margin of 28.2 percentage points.
According to Gray, many Alabama voters will be asking: "Do I vote for a man I cannot stand and offends me to my core, or do I vote for a man that I know will support ObamaCare, doesn’t support my president and will cost the Republican Party control of the U.S. Senate?"
Said Gray, "Does that sound familiar? How many people do you know held their nose and voted for Donald Trump?"
Still, the allegations involving Moore will put many evangelical voters back into a position of having to trust a candidate with skeletons apparently falling out of his closet. And that doesn’t count Robert Bentley, a deacon and Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, who resigned as governor this year amid a scandal involving improper sexual behavior with a political aide.
"I think the term ‘evangelical’ has been hijaked," said Robert Wilkerson, a Birmingham-based Christian author and retired minister who is supporting Democrat Doug Jones during the Dec. 12 general election. "Evangelical churches used to mean churches that believe in spreading the gospel and carrying out Jesus’ commission. And the ones making the headlines are the right-wing fanatical extremists."
The "evangelical voter" is a "nebulous term" that can include Southern Baptists, but also includes Pentecostal or the Holiness side of American Protestantism, according to Michael Altman, a religious studies professor at the University of Alabama.
"It certainly also includes the megachurches as well," said Altman. "And how often these ‘evangelical voters’ attend church or how active they are remains a mystery. It’s largely a creation of pollsters. All that said, it has become an important political fiction that largely means ‘white political conservatives that somehow self-identify as evangelical.’"
Alabama often leads the way in polls when it comes to church attendance, Bible reading and religious affiliation. It’s been that way for decades – in the 1980s, a "lifestyle market analysis" queried Americans about their favorite leisure-time activity, and a majority of Birmingham respondents listed reading the Bible. A 2016 Pew Research poll listed Alabama as No. 1 in the number of residents viewing themselves as "highly religious."
And most church-going white voters identify with the Republican Party. Alabama hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office in about a decade.
But Wilkerson said, "The vast majority of Christians, who are evangelical Christians, are intelligent and keep up with politics and what is going on. And they do not give a blank check to Roy Moore or President Trump or anybody."
Altman said that between Trump and Moore, it’s Moore who might "enjoy less political scaffolding" among evangelical voters.
"Trump could point to the open Supreme Court seat as a way to bring evangelicals along," said Altman, referring to the president’s appointment this year of conservative Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Moore, on the other hand, already had much of the GOP against him or at least not supporting him."
Regardless, political commentator Steve Flowers doubts that Moore’s evangelical base, as things stand now, will run away from him anytime soon. He points to an example the past: In 1948, Jim Folsom Sr. was embroiled in a paternity suit scandal with a 30-year-old widow. "Big Jim," who later admitted to being the child’s father, won gubernatorial elections in the 1950s.
"His supporters didn’t care," said Flowers, whose columns about state politics appear in about 60 newspapers in Alabama. "He knew they didn’t care."
via Real-Time News from AL.com http://bit.ly/2zzWl2c
November 11, 2017 at 06:16AM