Analyst: Republican Evangelical Support Already Maxed

Come this fall, don't expect evangelicals to top their 2004 support for President George W. Bush, said a former top aide to Bush on Monday.

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has several serious obstacles preventing him from gaining the overwhelming support of evangelical voters, said Michael Gerson, who now works for the Council on Foreign Relations, at the Pew Forum conference on religion and politics in Key West, Fla.

Among the top problems are McCain's lack of appeal to religious voters and a shift among evangelicals, especially younger ones, away from the Republican Party to be independent voters, according to Reuters.

McCain, who was raised Episcopal but now attends a Baptist church in Phoenix, has rarely, or uncomfortably, spoken about his relationship with God.

A religious advisor to the McCain campaign has said that the Arizona senator considers his faith "extremely private" and feels it is wrong to use religion for public gain, according to the Christian Broadcasting Network.

In comparison, his political opponents Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) have eagerly shared about their Christian faith and how it has influenced their political decisions.

Back in 2004, President George W. Bush had garnered 78 percent of the white evangelical Protestant vote, who made up about a third of his support in the election.

"I don't think that Republicans going forward are likely to equal (Bush's) share of the evangelical vote," said Gerson, a leading evangelical scholar who is also a columnist with The Washington Post.

"2004 was really a high point for evangelical enthusiasm and support for George W. Bush ... I think that in some ways that was an artificial high," Gerson, who was a former speechwriter for Bush, told Reuters.

He predicts that the Republican Party will not see that same kind of enthusiasm and support from evangelical voters for a long time.

However, the GOP can still expect strong support from this key voting bloc in the November election.

Evangelicals, who are known for their fierce pro-life stance, are still uneasy with the Democratic Party's support of abortion rights.