After the Democrats' first ever "Faith Caucus," I interviewed Shaun Casey, the Obama campaign's evangelical outreach coordinator. That's a fancy title for someone whose day job is teaching theology (at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.) As Casey's title suggests, Obama is "reaching out" to white evangelicals knowing that slightly more than 25% of all voters are white evangelicals (assume "white evangelicals" for the rest of the post; there are black evangelicals, but this is how pollsters see the electorate, and anyway almost all black voters, evangelical or not, vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, and will vote for Obama this year). Evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for George W. Bush in 2004, just as they did in 2000, but the Obama campaign believes that the candidate's chances of winning the presidency will improve if, in critical battleground states states with substantial numbers of evangelicals, he can reduce the size of the evangelical majorities that McCain is likely to win.
Polls testing the preferences of evangelicals thus far have obvious salience. Last week, Pew came out with its latest poll, which found that evangelicals aren't yet moving to Obama even though they are less enthusiastic about McCain at this stage in the race than they were about Bush in 2004. Casey said that in his labors as Obama's evangelical outreacher he's seen this lukewarm-toward-McCain attitude among evangelicals, and he says he's seen it in all parts of the country and among all kinds of evangelicals. Casey is hoping, of course, that some of those lukewarm evangelicals start moving to Obama, especially if they live in the battleground states. And which of those states does Casey think Obama has a chance of doing well in (by denying McCain a Bush-like majority)? Casey mentions Virginia--in which he says 32 percent of the electorate is made up of evangelicals--and Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota.