The importance of the evangelical vote is an inescapable fact of life in Republican politics, especially in terms of securing the GOP presidential nomination.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t win the nomination without solid support from the Religious Right. It’s a little trickier than that.
For example, political columnist Ronald Brownstein explains HERE that Mitt Romney paradoxically would be better off if Mike Huckabee, a darling of the evangelicals, had entered the race instead of taking a pass.
A few excerpts:
[W]ith Huckabee off the field, the former Baptist minister’s core constituency—the evangelical Christians who represent nearly half of the GOP’s primary electorate—are now back in play for all competitors. If Romney can’t defang the resistance he encountered from those voters in 2008, he faces the threat that they will eventually consolidate behind another contender, such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, with potentially wider support than Huckabee demonstrated last time.
Candidates who rely almost entirely on evangelicals—such as Huckabee, Gary Bauer in 2000, and televangelist Pat Robertson in 1988—have never come close to winning the GOP nomination. But evangelicals are plentiful enough that any candidate whom they deem completely unacceptable faces a formidable obstacle—and not only in the Deep South, where they are most heavily concentrated.