Iowa Caucuses Produce Mixed Bag of Candidates, Judged on Secular Issues
The first contest for the upcoming 2012 presidential election took place in Iowa on Tuesday, and reshaped the landscape of Republican presidential nominees.
It’s now a close race between the top three candidates to emerge from Iowa—and a mixed bag when it comes to all of the remaining candidates’ individual views on secular values, including separation of church and state.
In December the Secular Coalition for America released its 2012 Presidential Candidate Scorecard, and rated the candidates on secular issues. The scorecard assigned grades of "A", "B", "C" or "F" to the eight major candidates based on their public statements and actions on nine subjects.
Iowa’s caucuses were a down to the wire nail-biter, resulting in a statistical dead heat between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum—a dark horse candidate who began rising in the polls only days before the caucuses. Texas Rep. Ron Paul finished a close third.
Romney beat out Santorum by eight votes, with each earning 25% of the ballots cast. Ron Paul placed third at 21%, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich coming in fourth at 13%.
The top two candidates to emerge from the Iowa caucuses demonstrated a statistical split between one candidate (Santorum) that doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, and another (Romney) who has shown a willingness to separate his own personal religious beliefs from his role as a public servant. It’s not determined what the results in Iowa mean—if anything—going forward, and especially moving into states not as heavily populated with evangelical Christians.
In Iowa, evangelical Christians are a strong voting bloc. In 2008, they accounted for 60% of Republican caucus-goers. But New Hampshire is more of a mixed bag—part New England Yankee, part blue collar, working class.
But Santorum doesn’t seem worried about toning down the religious references in his rhetoric.
In his speech Tuesday night, Santorum said, “…we believe, as our founders did, that rights come to us from God and, when he gave us those rights, he gave us the freedom to go out and live those rights. […]God has given us this great country to allow his people — to allow his people to be free, has given us that dignity because we are a creation of his, and we need to honor that creation. And whether it’s the sanctity of life in the womb or the dignity of every working person in America to fulfill their potential, you will have a friend in Rick Santorum.”
He continued, saying that swing state voters “are the same people that President Obama talked about who cling to their guns and their Bibles. Thank God they do. They share our values about faith and family.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann came in fifth and sixth, respectively.
Perry and Bachmann, who dropped out after her disappointing finish in Iowa, were the only candidates to receive a grade of “F” for every category they were graded in. But Gingrich and Santorum trailed not far behind, each earning a grade of “F” for eight of the nine categories they were graded in. Romney and Paul were a mixed bag of grades, with Romney scoring two “A” grades, and Paul raking in at least one “B”.
In a Tuesday night speech, just before voting began, Bachmann again showed a lack of commitment to the principles of church and state separation that the United States was founded on when she said, “We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses of generations who have gone on before. Going back to the time of William Penn who came to this country to bring the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the time of the pilgrims who came here also to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, who stated that they willingly laid down their lives-- literally as stepping stones-- so that the next generation would prosper and know religious liberty.”
Jon Huntsman, who received the highest grades (for the categories he was scored in) of all the Republican nominees graded in the Scorecard, did not participate in the Iowa caucuses but will participate in the upcoming New Hampshire primaries.
The New Hampshire primary, to take place next Tuesday (January 10) will be the first contest Huntsman will participate in. New Hampshire will provide a clearer picture of how the candidates will be received, free from the stronghold of Iowa’s disproportionately evangelical voting bloc.
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