by Paul Goldman
Even more amazing than Governor McDonnell’s high poll ratings is the low turnout being predicted for Evangelical/Born-Again Christian voters in the latest NBC/Marist Poll. Although I took a lot of heat for calling this key finding in the early polls, the NBC/Marist poll highlights the shocking question for Republicans: Where, oh where, is the their White Evangelical/Born-Again Christian voting base?
Either the Marist Poll is way wrong – or there is a big Disappearing Evangelical Christian Vote this year in Virginia. According to the 2009 exit poll, 34% of those polled said they where “White Evangelical/Born Again” Christians. Now maybe – I am just speculating – this poll question was only asked of those self-identifying in the poll as white. I don’t think so, but let’s assume so. Even then, the number calculates to 27%.
In the 2012 exit polls, it is also confusing to truly understand the numbers. But when you cross-check them, it would appear that the 23% given as the “White evangelical or white born-again Christian” voter share of the total electorate checks out. According to the new Marist poll, the number will be around 18%. Thus, by any analysis, there has been a significant disappearance of the White Evangelical/Born-Again Christian voter.
By any normal set of markers, this part of the GOP base – historically 6-1 Republican – should vote in greater relative numbers in 2013 than in 2012! Even assuming 23%, this would shift the Governor’s race into the TOO CLOSE TO CALL CATEGORY RIGHT NOW! That’s right: the polls are not showing a massive loss of “moderate” GOP votes by Ken Cuccinelli or even Reverend Jackson. Moreover, what would seem to be a more normalized GOP turnout in this key part of the Republican base translates into an Obenshain edge for AG right now.
So I ask: Where have all the evangelical voters gone? It defies logic given that you have Cuccinelli and Jackson at the top of the ticket. What more could these voters want, in theory at least? But maybe THAT IS THE EXACT POINT? For some reason, Reverend Jackson especially may be turning these voters off. Is that possible? It surely defies conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom is that Reverend Jackson’s whole approach to campaigning – e.g., calling Pope Francis wrong on Roman Catholic doctrine – surely should be maximizing this voter group at the polls in November. But according to Marist, it isn’t happening. Why not? Either:
1) I am reading the exit polling wrong;
2) I am reading it right but the exit polls are wrong;
3) I am right about the exit polls, but the 2013 polls are wrong about this part of the GOP base staying home.
The 2008 exit polls in Virginia seemingly state that the “White Evangelical/Born-Again” voter percentage was 28% of the total electorate. This would be significantly higher than 2012. However, if this is actually meant to only apply to the white part of the electorate, then it would translate into this part of the GOP base being roughly 20% of the electorate, similar to what is being projected by the 2013 Marist poll.
But again: Even with this assumption, the off-year 2013 turnout would be predicted to have a higher percentage of this part of the GOP base, not a lower percentage! So we ask again, where is the missing White Evangelical/Born-Again Christian GOP voter this year?
If the Marist poll is correct, then African-American voters may outvote White Evangelical/Born-Again Christian voters for the first time EVER in a Virginia governor’s race. EVER.
If this is the new political “normalized” electorate in Virginia, then 2013 marks a watershed election, especially since, according to Marist, the Latino Vote may be DOUBLE the percentage of the electorate as it was in 2009! It is still in single digits, but a huge jump in just 4 years if the polls are right.
Clearly Democrats are doing something right, turnout wise, this year, as reflected in the polls. Could the polls be wrong? Sure, as they are not good at predicting turnout generally. However, put it another way: For the first time Virginia history, at the governor’s level, it appears that the Democratic party’s key voter base will be a BIGGER PERCENTAGE of the electorate than the key part of the GOP base.
Plus, the Democratic base is going to be more solidly Democratic than this part of the GOP base, which is only 6-1 Republican, whereas the Dem base key group should be 7-1! With all due respect to Terry, Ralph, Mark, Tim and JohnNotMark, this is really BIG BIG POLITICAL NEWS – if true, if confirmed, and if this is the new normal.
If true, this would be a crushing blow to the Tea Party, which will now be forever locked out of top-tier statewide office. It might sneak into a lower ballot position, but it is a sure loser in a marquee race. Could anyone have predicted this back in 2009 or 2010? If so, they would have out-proofed “200 proof,” that’s for sure.