Then there were those who didn’t show up. There were 4.1 million fewer Republicans voting this year than in 2004. Some missing Republicans had turned independent or Democratic for this election. But most simply stayed home. … There were also 4.1 million fewer voters who attend religious services more than once a week. Americans aren’t suddenly going to church less; something was missing from the campaign to draw out the more religiously observant.
Rove’s recommendation is for Republicans to do more “to draw out the more religiously observant” — in other words, suck up more to Christian conservatives.
But that is a very narrow, politically foolish reading of the data.
I had also noted that the secular vote had become larger than the weekly churchgoing vote. But Rove ignores three other key pieces of data.
1) Obama earned more support from weekly churchgoers than past Democratic candidates.
2) McCain earned less support from secular voters than George W. Bush.
Obama built a stronger religious-secular coalition by offering ideas that appeal to both camps, not by crude pandering on religious matters.
Bending over backwards to pander to conservative Christians will only further worry secular voters that conservatives don’t properly prioritize issues that are most important to good governing.
But trying to come up with conservative ideas that can appeal across religious lines is a much harder task than staying in the conservative comfort zone of telling their base what they want to hear.
And 3) Obama got 8.5 million more votes than McCain in beating him 53% to 46%. Squeezing 4.1 million more votes out of your base doesn’t solve your problem.
To put a fine point on it, if you only count the states where Obama received 53% or more, he still gets enough electoral votes to win — 290, 20 more than needed.
Goosing the Christian conservative base won’t get those states back. The conservative “secular problem” still looms large.