After belatedly discovering Sarah Posner’s post-election analysis of white evangelical turnout rates in the South in the midterm election, I gave some thought to the contrarian idea that 2015 might be a very good, not bad, year for the Christian Right, even though the mainstream media have again forgotten about these people. It’s the subject of my latest column for TPM Cafe.

What becomes immediately obvious is the unprecedented set of close associations between potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates and the Christian Right–often the most radical elements of the Christian Right. Huck, Santorum, Perry and Cruz are pretty much unarguably representatives of the Christian Right within the GOP, so any talk of them “reaching out” to the white conservative evangelical demographic is a bit ridiculous. But it’s Bobby Jindal who’s been most over-the-top in pandering to the Christian Right, and Rand Paul, Mike Pence and Scott Walker are highly connected to the theocratic lobby as well. It probably says a lot that Mr. Establishment himself, Jeb Bush, may well have the most impressive Christian Right record of the whole bunch, having touched off the national psychodrama of the Terri Schiavo controversy of 2003-2005, the last time conservative Christians demanded and duly received the undivided attention of a GOP-controlled state and then federal government.

2014 is going to provide a rich opportunity for vetting (to the small extent necessary with this field) and shaking down for the Christian Right activists of Iowa in particular. Start looking for it early next year at Steve King’s hoedown, the Iowa Freedom Summit, on January 24, followed by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual event in April. A really key question is whether these spiritual warriors can manage to winnow the field and avoid the kind of demolition derby on the Right that led to the nominations of John McCain and Mitt Romney. Maybe not. But they have their broadest degree of influence ever.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.