RELIGIOUS BACKLASH….My friends Ayelish McGarvey and Sarah Wildman have a pair of interesting posts over at Tapped providing some evidence for what I’ve been arguing for some time: All of Bush’s often-brilliant religious rhetoric and outreach can’t paper over the fact that four years of his administration have yielded little in the way of results for the religious voters he’s been courting.

Ayelish shares a fascinating email from a conservative religious leader who rips into Bush for basically being a fake evangelical. Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, those 4 million missing evangelicals Karl Rove is always talking about just don’t exist. And even if they did, Bush’s actions over the past four years have done little to excite Christian conservatives. I know the conventional wisdom among most liberals is that Bush has done a ton to pander to his base. But look at it from their perspective. They’ve just had four years with an evangelical in the White House, evangelicals running the House and the Senate, a relatively sympathetic Supreme Court, and John Ashcroft at DoJ. And what have they gotten? Bush came out in favor of civil unions last week, developed a stem cell compromise that fell far short of what Christian conservatives wanted, and his faith-based initiative has turned out to be an empty sham. It’s not enough to turn them into John Kerry voters, but it may be enough to convince them to stay home.

And as Sarah points out, Muslims–a political community that lent 80% of its support to Bush in 2000–are leaning, well, heavily (I’d say 93% is heavy) to Kerry this time around. Both candidates made a gamble during this election and held off on courting Muslims for fear that their opponents would find some way to tie their contacts to individuals connected with terrorist activity. But Bush’s administration went even further, pursuing policies that actively targeted (and therefore alienated) Muslims.

You’ll be hearing more from me over the next few days on how a number of the religious outreach strategies that worked so well in 2000 for Bush have backfired in this election. The biggest reason is that actions really do matter more than words. Voters aren’t stupid. You may be able to fool them for a campaign season; four years of an administration is a different game entirely. We’ll know more as religion data comes out of the exit poll numbers. But my prediction is that Kerry does significantly better among religious constituencies that Bush expected to sweep.

Amy Sullivan

Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.