Just because Mitt Romney is pulling his ads in South Carolina doesn’t mean he’s not banking his candidacy on serious evangelical support. For the time being, though, it’s not Southern evangelicals he needs. A senior Romney aide tells God-o-Meter that the campaign, desperately needing a win in next Tuesday’s Michigan primary, will be focusing the evangelical-heavy western part of the state. Which helps explain Romney’s new Michigan radio ad featuring local Congressman Pete Hoekstra and his wife Diane:
CONGRESSMAN PETE HOEKSTRA: “These are serious times for America.”
DIANE HOEKSTRA: “And for the American family.”
PETE HOEKSTRA: “And that’s why our family took a hard look at all the candidates for President.”
DIANE HOEKSTRA: And if you care about the family, one candidate stands out.
CONGRESSMAN PETE HOEKSTRA: “Yup, Mitt Romney.”
DIANE HOEKSTRA: “Governor Mitt Romney represents the values that are important to us. He will fight for the unborn and traditional marriage.”
It’s worth noting that the Romney campaign doesn’t think it has to win evangelicals outright to triumph in Michigan or elsewhere. It just has to deprive Mike Huckabee of enough evangelical votes so that, combined with a large share of Republican establishment voters, it can create a winning coalition. The problem with that strategy in a state like Michigan is that Huck has a big advantage with values voters and John McCain has a leg up with the establishment. That leaves Romney an in-between space that has served him pretty well in Iowa and New Hampshire, but not enough to boost him to victory.