Holy War

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The latest polls (for example here) show Huckabee and McCain splitting the evangelical vote in South Carolina, and it seems fair to wonder why. After all, wasn’t it John McCain who, after getting trounced by George W. Bush in the Palmetto State in 2000, insulted that voting bloc by calling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance”? Yes, but that was before 9/11. Back in October, the AP’s Eric Gorski wrote an important story showing how the war against “radical Islam” (aka “Islamofascism”) had emerged–or was being pushed–as an issue for evangelical voters. As in Gary Bauer:”The war against Islamofascism is in many respects a ‘values issue.’ That may seem like an odd statement at first glance, but, as I have often said, losing Western Civilization to this vicious enemy would be immoral.” Or Rick Scarborough: “It’s the ultimate life issue. If radical Islam succeeds in its ultimate goals, Christianity ceases to exist.”
This has now become the McCain talking point with evangelicals in South Carolina. Here from Saturday’s Washington Post piece on evangelicals in SC, is McCain supporter Lindsey Graham: “‘People of faith want a candidate who can beat radical Islam,’ Graham said, touting McCain’s war experience.” And here’s McCain himself, speaking on Hannity and Colmes last week: “Our evangelicals fear more than anything else this rise of radical Islamic extremism. The word isn’t ‘fear,’ they’re deeply concerned about it.”
So there it is: McCain’s the guy best equipped to defeat Islam–ah, make that Islamism. How many values voters will prove susceptible to that claim and tip away from Huckabee remains to be seen. The way to see it will be via cross-tabulating white evangelicals and issues on the SC exit poll. Look for evangelicals who rank terrorism first to be voting for McCain.