When Mitt Romney’s 2012 candidacy was gaining traction in the primaries, the conventional wisdom instantly conveyed that the evangelical vote, skeptical of Mormonism, would sink him.
What if in Ohio next week the opposite is true? There and in other swing states—Wisconsin, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida—the evangelical vote is flying beneath the media’s radar. It’s a lot of voters not to notice. In the 2008 presidential vote, they were 30% of the vote in Ohio, 31% in Iowa and 26% in Wisconsin.
Ralph Reed, the president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, has been spending a lot of time in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the belief that evangelical support for Mr. Romney could be decisive. He notes that when George W. Bush won Ohio in 2004, the Kerry camp thought their dominance of Democratic Cuyahoga County around Cleveland had the state locked up. But Mr. Bush’s solid support in evangelical-dominated counties from Cincinnati to the West Virginia border carried Ohio by two percentage points.
Mr. Reed notes that in several opinion polls—NBC, Pew and ABC—the percentage of evangelicals claiming to support Mr. Romney has been in the mid-70s. “We estimate that in 2008 there were 350,000 evangelicals who didn’t vote in Ohio,” Mr. Reed says. “Obama carried the state by 260,000.” If that support of 70% or more holds for Mr. Romney in Ohio, and if the share of the evangelical vote increases by a point or two, then the challenger could carry the Buckeye State.