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Ever since Barack Obama uttered the words “awesome God” in his 2004 convention speech, Democrats embarked on a multiyear journey to convince voters of faith. But any inroads Democrats made with religious voters over the past four years were essentially washed away in this year’s midterm elections.
Voters of all religious persuasions were consumed by the economy and took out their frustrations on the party in power, but according to multiple Democratic sources, the party’s outreach to faith voters is just a shell of what it once was.
The wave of evangelicals that former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed predicted this fall never materialized, but once again white evangelicals made up one-quarter of the electorate and voted heavily Republican.
Democratic candidates won 28 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2006, and Obama took 24 percent of the group in 2008, according to the national exit polls. A couple of weeks ago, Democratic candidates received only 19 percent of the white evangelical vote compared with 77 percent for Republican candidates.
The drop-off was even more stunning in a place such as west Tennessee where Roy Herron could be the poster child for Democratic faith outreach.
“I’m a truck-driving, shotgun-shooting, Bible-reading, crime-fighting, family-loving country boy,” Herron said in one of his campaign ads. He’s a former Methodist minister who has authored multiple Christian books.
He also lost his race in the 8th district by a whopping 20 points to a gospel-singing rancher named Steven Fincher (R).
“I think most people thought that both of us shared their faith and their faith values,” Herron explained in an interview Tuesday. “But people wanted to send a message, not a man.” Illustrating this cycle’s tough terrain, Herron’s 39 percent of the vote was short of both Obama’s showing in 2008 (43 percent) and even Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s 47 percent in the 2004 presidential election.
“You’ve had scandal after scandal, and I think Christian people are saying: ‘Enough. One-party government, a monarchy, is not what we want. We’re ready for change,’” Herron said in an October 2006 CNN interview posted on his YouTube channel. Four years later much of that sentiment came back, but in reverse.
Nationally, concern over the direction of the country and the economy hit Democrats particularly hard in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, where the party lost seats by the handful.