This year in Georgia, we've seen the Christian Coalition turn its back on its former head, Ralph Reed, who was running for Lt. Gov. Many in that faction either stayed home on July 18th or voted for Reed's opponent, Casey Cagle. Since then, pundits have been trying to figure out if that was a sign of discontent by Christians; or, is it a sign of the once powerful coalition losing its punch?
Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald suggests that the Christian Coalition might have a similar impact in this year's Florida gubernatorial race. She reports that this year's group of Republican candidates have left conservative evangicals "disillusioned" and "uninspired." This is quite a turnaround from 2004 when that group was credited with ensuring a Bush victory in that state.
From the Herald:
Leaders of the conservative Christian movement in Florida say discontent with the national Republican Party and concerns over the war and the economy may keep voters home Sept. 5 because Florida's gubernatorial candidates haven't done much to inspire them.
That could spell trouble for Republican candidate Tom Gallagher, who is trailing in the polls behind rival Charlie Crist and is counting on reliable religious voters to show up in his primary race.
It also could mean trouble for the state's conservative Christian movement -- if it is left with no leader in the governor's mansion and see an end to their decade-long rise in influence.
''We're going to find out once and for all: Does the Christian Coalition/religious right continue to have the muscle that it was thought to have in Southern elections?'' said Matt Towery, an Atlanta-based pollster who last week released the results of a public opinion poll for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
''Either the social conservatives are going to be motivated by Gallagher's statements and come out to vote,'' he said, ``or that group is going to prove to no longer be the major factor that it has shown to be in major Republican races.''
In the chamber poll of Floridians who labeled themselves likely voters, Crist's 19-point lead over Gallagher had narrowed for the first time in two months to 10 points. Crist's advantage: 39-29.
But a stubborn 29 percent of Republicans said they still hadn't made up their minds with the primary just over a week away, said Marian Johnson, the chamber's chief political strategist.