johncindymccain.jpgIn the final hours before voting begins here in tomorrow’s GOP primary, The Brody File notes that John McCain is faring pretty decently among South Carolina evangelicals:

The latest poll shows Huckabee leading McCain 33% to 20% among the Evangelical vote. That’s a sizeable margin but not as big as it could be.

In 2000, exit polls showed that South Carolinians identifying as members of the Religious Right (not a very delicately worded question, God-o-Meter notes) backed George W. Bush over McCain 68-percent to 24-percent. Although the comparisons between those exit polls and current South Carolina polls are imprecise because of differences in question wording, it’s surprising that Huckabee hasn’t opened anywhere near a Bush-like lead among evangelicals.
God-o-Meter has written a lot about McCain’s revitalized evangelical outreach effort, and Brody notes that McCain is trying to expand his defense-based message to South Carolina’s big military family contingent to religious conservatives, quoting a McCain advisor:

“He’ll do very well among Evangelicals. I’m convinced he will get his share and then some…. We are very concerned about whether this country is going to be in existence in the future because of Bin Laden and that ilk saying they’re going to destroy us. That’s a major issue here. Don’t miss that.”

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports that McCain–and his wife–are brandishing his more traditional “pro-family” credentials, too, including at a rally yesterday in Columbia:

When Cindy McCain introduces her husband, she usually starts out by telling audiences about how she reluctantly agreed to let him run for president again for the sake of their two sons serving in the military, as well as others serving overseas. However this afternoon, she spoke of how 15 years ago she brought a Bangladeshi infant back to the U.S. at Mother Teresa’s request, and ended up incorporating her in the McCain family.
…. In a state where social conservatives represent roughly half the GOP electorate, McCain’s campaign is retooling its message. While McCain and his supporters still speak of his commitment to national security and the war in Iraq, they are also talking more about his family values and his concern for the economy.

If McCain winds up with the GOP nomination, and God-o-Meter still thinks it’s a long shot, his turned-around relationship with the Christian Right will be a major reason, and will begin attracting a lot more attention.


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