January 30, 2008

Florida Republican Primary: Religious Candidates in Counties With Creationist School Boards

McCain won the Florida Republican primary, taking 36% of the vote to second place Mitt Romney's 31%. I thought Huckabee would do better than his meager 13%, a fourth-place finish that put him behind even Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani has dropped out at this point; Huckabee would appear still to be expecting a miracle. Clue for ya, Huckster: there won't be one.

For his part, Romney's concession speech touched back to his own religious appeal, containing the notable line about how "hard-working, god-fearing" people are what made America great "and always will." Huckabee has been the biggest bible-thumper in the Republican race without doubt but Mitt Romney is certainly willing to do the same. McCain is a somewhat more secular-minded candidate (which isn't to say I like his positions) and Giuliani, the least-religious of the bunch, has endorsed him at this point.

I was curious, though, as to how candidates who've made religion an issue did in those Florida counties wherein school boards have passed pro-Creationism resolutions against the proposed science education standards. In other words, is there any correlation between Huckabee and/or Romney finishing in first or second place in a given county and a Creationist school board being present? I cobbled together side-by-side comparisons by using a map of counties that have passed or proposed such a resolution (by Pim van Meurs) and an interactive map from The Washington Post that broke down voting by county.


Huckabee finished first in four counties (Holmes, Washington, Suwanee and Gilchrist). Two of these counties (Holmes and Washington) have Creationist school boards. He came second in 11 more counties (Jackson, Calhoun, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Lafayette, Baker, Bradford, Levy, Hardee and Okeechobee). Of these, pro-Creationist resolutions have been passed by the school boards in Jackson, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton and Baker counties. Of the 12 counties where such resolutions have been passed, then, Huckabee finished first or second in seven.


Romney finished first in 18 counties; of these, Baker, Nassau, Clay, St. Johns, and Union have school boards that have passed anti-science resolutions. He finished second in 35 more counties (there are 67 counties in Florida). Among them are Putnam County, where a resolution has been passed, and Dixie, Wakulla, Okaloosa, Martin and Palm Beach Counties (considered likely to draft a resolution) and Polk and Pinellas Counties (where resolutions have been drafted but not yet voted upon).

In both the cases of Huckabee and Romney, they often came second only by less than 5% of the vote. McCain squeaked out wins in several of the counties. He finished third in only two counties, one of which (Baker County) has passed a resolution condemning Florida's new science education standards.

Of the counties in which school boards have passed these resolutions, then, McCain lost in seven. In the pro-Creationism counties in which McCain won, the victory was by less than 5% in three:

Jackson County: McCain 35%, Huckabee 33%
Madison County: McCain 36%, Huckabee 34%
Taylor County: McCain 39%, Huckabee 32%
Hamilton County: McCain 37%, Huckabee 31%
Putnam County: McCain 33%, Romney 32%

In none of these did McCain win a clear majority; it appears that Huckabee and Romney are splitting the religious conservative vote overall. In the aftermath of Super Tuesday, I'll be looking for Huckabee to drop out and endorse Romney. If he'd done that before the Florida primary, in fact, Romney might just have won the thing. What happened in Florida, I think, gives us a good glimpse of where McCain's support base isn't. If he becomes the nominee, I think a lot of evangelicals will stay home on election day. That's fine by me. I'd love to see a Republican candidate take the nomination without carrying the religious wingnut vote. I think it could be done, and if so it would demonstrate eloquently the diminishing influence of the Bronze Agers on politics.

Sphere: Related Content