The polling numbers on a Hillary-Rudy showdown point to a profound shake up. The latest Pew Research Center survey shows that Hillary would defeat Rudy easily. The reasons they cite, however, are shocking, and constitute a total reversal from recent presidential races.
In a head-to-head race with Rudy, reports Pew, Hillary would win the south and even manage to score evenly with voters who attend church at least once a week — voters who twice opted for George W. Bush by margins of almost two to one, and elected him to the presidency for two terms. A Rudy nomination loses slam-dunk Republican constituencies, begun by Ronald Reagan, and solidified by George W. Bush.
Most interesting, the data highlight a potent undercurrent that will be a force to be reckoned with by these two candidates if they make it all the way to November — namely, the remarkably negative perception of them on religious and moral issues, and specifically on abortion. Never have the two frontrunners from the two major parties polled so low in these crucial determinants.
A September survey by Pew Research Center found that of the presidential candidates from the two major parties, the two judged “least religious” were Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, with Rudy barely edging out Hillary from the bottom of the pit. The two New York politicians are also, not coincidentally, the two staunchest supporters of legalized abortion among their parties.
Survey data on abortion and religion tend to correlate: the more supportive an individual is of abortion, the more that person tends to reject God; on the other hand, those who deny or disregard God, tend to deny or disregard the dignity and humanity of life in the womb. The absence of a Creator makes life difficult for the unborn. Those who believe that God created humanity in God’s own image, tend to defend humanity even when not visible.
The data from the 2000 and 2004 presidential contests were nearly identical in this regard. Take, for instance, these 2004 findings on church attendance and abortion:
According to CNN exit polling, those who attend church more than once per week made up 16 percent of 2004 voters, and they voted for the pro-life George W. Bush by 63 to 35 percent. On the other hand, those who said they never attend church, which equaled 15-percent of voters, pulled the lever for the pro-choice John F. Kerry by 64 to 34 percent.
Ten percent of those who voted in 2004 claimed no religion at all. Of those, 68-percent voted for Kerry, but only 30-percent went for Bush. In fact, Democratic presidential nominees do especially well among the un-religious in New York and California — who do their ungodly best to give liberals a fighting chance every four years: In California, 24 percent of voters, almost one in four, said they never attend church, and they went for Kerry 63 to 34 percent. In New York, the 12-percent of voters who claimed no religion at all voted for Kerry by 78 to 19 percent, offsetting Catholics in New York who favored Bush by 51 to 48 percent.
The breakdown on abortion was equally striking: Over a quarter of all voters, 26 percent, said that abortion ought to be “mostly illegal,” and they went for Bush by 72 to 27 percent. Those 15 percent who said abortion should be “always illegal” cast a ballot for Bush by 77 to 22 percent. Interestingly, however, while 15 percent of those who voted believe that abortion should never be legal, another 15 percent said it should be “always legal,” and they voted precisely the opposite, favoring Kerry by three to one, 74 to 24 percent.
The liberal media makes a big deal about how churchgoers are decisive for Republican presidential nominees like George W. Bush. On the contrary, it is rarely acknowledged how godlessness works for Democratic nominees.
All of this poses an interesting set of dynamics if the 2008 contest comes down to Hillary vs. Rudy — and to the detriment of Rudy and the Republicans.
For many pro-life Christians, the choice of conscience in 2008 will be neither Rudy nor Hillary. Like Dr. James Dobson, they will either bolt to a third party or not vote at all, which would — ironically — once again place a Clinton in the Oval Office.
Yet, for other pro-lifers, picking Rudy would be the lesser of two evils. They realize that no president — from a President Barbara Boxer to a president who once ran NARAL — would do as much as Hillary to advance abortion.
Of course, while pro-lifers dread the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton, the thought excites pro-choicers. Among those I interviewed on the faith of Hillary was a pro-choice Methodist named William F. Harrison, a nationally known Arkansas abortion doctor and Hillary’s personal friend and one-time OB-GYN. Though into his 70s, Harrison does not want to slow his rate of activity at his Fayetteville Women’s Clinic; he plans to continue to perform about 1,200 abortions per year. Asked if he would expect Hillary to change George W. Bush’s pro-life policies, Harrison quickly exclaimed: “Oh, absolutely…. I hope to God she does.”
The big question will be how those millions of pro-lifers who place their hope in God decide to vote next November, especially if left to choose among Hillary and Rudy. As all of America looks to New York, the choice could come down to the two most pro-choice and perceived un-religious candidates ever to face off for the White House. In the annals of presidential politics, this one would be unprecedented.
– Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His new book, God and Hillary Clinton.