Is Supporting Kim Davis the Path to Evangelical Votes?

By Gass, Henry | The Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2015 | Go to article overview

Is Supporting Kim Davis the Path to Evangelical Votes?


Gass, Henry, The Christian Science Monitor


Kim Davis will be going back to work this week in the Rowan County clerk's office.

She walked out of jail Tuesday, five days after being jailed for contempt, a religious and political symbol, a crowd of hundreds cheering her and two Republican presidential candidates voicing their support.

With "Eye of the Tiger" blaring in front of the Carter County Detention Center, Ms. Davis met former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on stage. He raised her arms in triumph.

"I feel like she's shown more courage than most every politician I know and most every pastor I know," Huckabee told reporters. "She was willing to go to jail for what she believed. She has ignited something across this country."

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, has become a political lightning rod in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision in June legalizing same-sex marriage. And two GOP candidates appear hopeful that they can bottle some of that lightning, experts say. Mr. Huckabee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz - who both find themselves on the fringes of a crowded Republican field - are trying to use the media storm around Davis to boost their own profiles, says Jonathan Merritt, a senior columnist for the Religion News Service and author of several books on Christianity, culture, and politics.

US District Judge David Bunning, who jailed Davis for contempt of court last Thursday for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same- sex couples, ordered her freed, saying that he was satisfied that her deputies were complying with the law. Friday marked the first day that same-sex couples received licenses in Rowan County.

in a two-page order, Judge Bunning said she was released on the condition she not "interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples." If she does interfere, Bunning wrote, "appropriate sanctions" will be considered.

Huckabee, a Republican nominee for president who helped organize the rally (dubbed the "#ImWithKim" rally), met with Davis in the jailhouse prior to the rally. Senator Cruz, who began courting Evangelicals early on in his campaign, met with Davis Tuesday as well and attended the rally, tweeting his support.

White evangelical Christians comprise about 40 percent of Republican primary voters, and nearly 60 percent of Iowa caucusgoers.

Winning the votes of evangelical Christians has been vital for Republicans for decades, and they have proved particularly influential in early primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina where they can have an outsized influence. By themselves, though, they don't equal a nomination.

"Attracting only evangelical voters has never been a recipe for victory," says Mr. Merritt.

Huckabee himself rode the evangelical vote to a surprise victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses and five state primaries after that, before losing the nomination to Sen. …

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