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McCain wins Fla. evangelical vote

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP)–U.S. Sen. John McCain won the Florida primary Jan. 29 as well as the evangelical vote, although Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney finished close behind and tied for second among that key voting block.

McCain won 30 percent of those who profess to be born-again or evangelical, while Huckabee and Romney each got 29 percent, according to exit polls. With the exception of South Carolina, evangelicals have sided with the winner of every GOP contest thus far that had exit polling. Evangelicals comprised 39 percent of GOP voters in Florida.

McCain won Florida, 36 percent to Romney’s 31 percent, Rudy Giuliani’s 15 percent and Huckabee’s 14 percent.

The senator from Arizona has been at odds with conservatives on several issues over the years, and during his victory speech he touched on a few themes important to those voters. He also mentioned Ronald Reagan by name twice.

“[T]he judges we appoint to federal benches must understand that that is their only responsibility, and leave to elected officials their responsibility to make the laws they enforce,” McCain told supporters. “We believe government should do only those things we cannot do individually, to tax us no more than necessary, and spend no more than necessary, and then get out of the way of the most industrious, ingenious and optimistic people in the history of the world so that they can build an even greater country than the one they inherited.”

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, who banked his campaign on winning Florida, dropped out of the race and endorsed McCain. The former New York mayor, who is pro-choice, received 7 percent of the evangelical vote and 10 percent of the vote among those who believe abortion should be illegal.

Exit polls also showed that:

— Huckabee won among voters who believe abortion should always be illegal, getting 32 percent, followed by Romney (30 percent) and McCain (26 percent). Romney won with 37 percent among those who believe abortion should be “mostly illegal,” with McCain second (30 percent) and Huckabee third (16 percent). Fifty-two percent of Florida GOP voters believe abortion should be either always or mostly illegal.

— Huckabee led, with 40 percent, among those who attend church more than once a week. Romney got 26 percent, McCain 24 percent. Among those who attend church only weekly, Romney received 34 percent, McCain 33 percent, Giuliani 16 percent and Huckabee 13 percent.

— Romney won among those who consider themselves “very conservative,” McCain among those who call themselves “somewhat conservative.” In the very conservative category, Romney won 44 percent, McCain 21 percent and Huckabee 20 percent. Among voters who are somewhat conservative, McCain got 35 percent, Romney 32 percent and Giuliani and Huckabee 14 percent.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton received 50 percent of the vote to Barack Obama’s 33 percent to win the primary, although no delegates to the national convention were at stake. The national party stripped the state of its delegates because Florida Democrats held their primary earlier than allowed. The major Democratic candidates did not campaign in the state. It is still possible that the delegates could be seated at the convention, despite the controversy.

Among Democrats who attend church more than once a week, Obama received 49 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 32 percent. But among those who attend only weekly, Clinton won, 50 percent to Obama’s 35 percent. (The exit polls for Democrats did not include a question asking voters if they consider themselves evangelical.)

The Democrats saw one of their candidates, John Edwards, drop out of the race Wednesday, although he did not announce an endorsement.

The next contest for either party takes place this weekend, when Maine Republicans hold their caucuses, followed by Super Tuesday, where delegates are at stake in 22 states for Democrats and 21 states for Republicans.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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