Pawlenty Rocks the God Vote

The religious right is Tim Pawlenty’s to lose.

In a recent poll of leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)—which includes representatives from a number of evangelical organizations around the country—45 percent named Pawlenty as their preferred Republican candidate. Coming in a distant second with 14 percent: Mitt Romney.

In the NAE press release announcing the poll, Leith Anderson, the group’s president, points out that Pawlenty’s strong showing “might be expected since he is so often identified as an evangelical.” It doesn’t hurt that Anderson is Pawlenty’s pastor at Wooddale Church—a shared history that the release fails to mention.

Pawlenty’s religious fervor distinguishes him from Romney, the current frontrunner. It’s central to his presidential narrative. But that’s not likely to help him much with the broader Republican electorate:

Among Republicans, 59 percent hold a favorable view of [Romney], according to a Bloomberg National Poll, while only 16 percent view him negatively. He’s also more popular than unpopular with independent voters by a 10 percentage point margin. . . . [Pawlenty] is viewed favorably by 29 percent and unfavorably by 11 percent.

And then there’s this:

While the poll shows more than half of Republicans are dissatisfied with the current choices in the field, an overwhelming 85 percent want candidates seeking their support to focus almost entirely on economic issues, not social ones.

Of course, social issues define the evangelical right. Meaning that Pawlenty would be well advised to aggressively broaden his base, and court some of that 85 percent that’s begging to hear more about jobs and smart investments and less about abortion and traditional marriage. Because if polls like Bloomberg’s bear out, most Republicans just don’t care what the NAE thinks.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.