Is the Christian Right to Blame for the GOP Loss?

With the Republican Party's stunning loss on Tuesday, conservatives have started asking why? One argument is that the Christian Right is to blame. But it could also be argued that the Christian Right presents the best hope for the Republican Party to regain majority status.

Here are the cases for and against blaming the Christian Right for Tuesday's election.

Yes, the Christian Right is to Blame

Two Christian Right candidates, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, made unartful and ill-informed comments about rape and abortion. Even though party leaders tried to distance themselves from Akin, and even pleaded with him to resign, this reflected poorly on the Republican Party. Besides losing those two Senate races, the incidents likely damaged the Republican brand for other Senate races and for Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate.

These incidents gave more ammunition to the Obama campaign's message that Republicans were waging a "war on women." Barack Obama won 55 percent of the female vote and 67 percent of the single female vote.

The Christian Right also suffered losses on several ballot measures. The movement lost in four states where gay marriage, or a defense of traditional marriage was on the ballot, and in two states that liberalized marijuana laws. These ballot measures indicate that the Christian Right is out of step with voters on these issues.

Sixty-three percent of 18- to 29-year-olds support gay marriage, the largest support of any age group. Obama won this age group by 23 percentage points, 60 to 37 percent.

No, the Christian Right is Not to Blame

One of the main reasons Romney lost was that he lost by large margins among non-white voters. Obama won 93 percent of the black vote, 71 percent of the Latino vote and 73 percent of the Asian-American vote. Many agree that the Republican Party must expand its base among non-white voters if it is to win any future presidential contests.

Within the Republican coalition, the Christian Right presents the best opportunity to reach out to blacks and Latinos. Blacks and Latinos have higher levels of religiosity, higher levels of church attendance and are more conservative on some social issues than whites, on average.

A 2009 Pew Research Center study found that 87 percent of blacks and 85 percent of Latinos belong to a religious group, compared with 83 percent for the general population. While gay marriage has been gaining support in black and Latino communities, much like the general population, opposition is stronger among minorities who attend religious services often.

While Romney received a higher proportion of the evangelical vote (78 percent) than John McCain did in 2008 (74 percent), the electorate was smaller and fewer evangelicals voted. About 24.89 million evangelicals voted for McCain in 2008, and about 24.45 million evangelicals voted for Romney in 2012.

If evangelical turnout was the same in 2012 as it was in 2008, and Romney received the same proportion of the evangelical vote, he would have had about 1.8 million more votes. This would have cut his nearly 3.3 million vote deficit by more than half.

If the Republicans do a better job at turning out votes from their base of politically conservative evangelicals and at reaching out to racial minorities, they can close the gap with Democrats. And on both efforts, Republicans will need the Christian Right's help.

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