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The Evangelicals Drift

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The conservative base is starting to crack and the “God gap” is narrowing.

From a new poll:

A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.

Even before the Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a “favorable” impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent, according to Pew polls.

In the latest survey, taken in the last 10 days of September and the first four days of October, the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern “in a more honest and ethical way” than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.

That 21 point drop is significant, especially this close to an election.

And here’s the most likely reason why: Iraq.

The slippage is particularly striking among evangelicals. According to Pew data, the portion of white evangelical Protestants who identify themselves as Republicans rose steadily from 2000 to 2004 but leveled off this year at about half. The percentage who support keeping troops in Iraq has dropped to 55 percent, from 68 percent in early September.

Again, a 13 point swing here is just too much to overcome this close to an election. Bush’s hands are tied until after the polls close.