Scott Walker and the Christian Right

Yesterday Politico‘s Alex Isenstadt created a stir by reporting that Scott Walker was rushing to deal with misgivings among Christian Right leaders about his fidelity to the Cause. The less-than-subtle headline–“Scott Walker’s crisis of faith”–suggested that he was speeding to a summit meeting with said leaders, who held his fate in their hands.

But if you read the piece carefully, it’s not clear exactly who’s among the “50 influential leaders” Walker is meeting with at the Capitol Hill Club–the top Republican Beltway hangout, and an unlikely place for any faith-based summit–other than social-issues warhorse Tony Perkins. Isenstadt actually used the meeting to solicit skeptical comments from an array of old-school Christian Right types, including Iowa’s Bob Vander Plaats (whose whole shtick is using his leverage in the first-in-the-nation Caucus state to intimidate Republican presidential candidates), Penny Nance of Concerned Women of America, a group that’s been closely associated with Mike Huckabee, and Liberty Counsel’s Matt Staver, co-author of a recent shrill anti-marriage equality manifesto.

On Twitter Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches quickly dismissed Walker’s DC “huddle” as a nothing-burger. Posner, as some of you may recall, wrote a piece recently suggesting that Walker may wind up being the favorite of rank-and-file conservative evangelicals, who aren’t necessarily following their old leaders these days.

As it happens, a rare early national poll with exceptionally detailed cross-tabs was released this week that casts some light on the question of conservative evangelical sympathies. The GWU/Battleground Poll showed Scott Walker with a 45/4 favorable/unfavorable rating among conservative white evangelicals, as compared to 54/34 for Jeb Bush, 69/15 for Mike Huckabee, 51/10 for Ted Cruz, 56/11 for Marco Rubio, and 50/26 for Ron Paul. So a lot of them don’t know Walker, but so far, those who do really like him. On the more revealing question of “would you consider voting for this candidate,” Walker paces the field with a yes/no ratio of 70/19, compared with 67/27 for Rubio, 67/28 for Huck, 65/24 for Cruz, 56/37 for Paul, and Jebbie bringing up the rear at 54/42.

So one way to look at it is that Scott Walker’s doing okay with the Christian Right rank-and-file no matter what their alleged leaders are saying. And the other way to look at it is that said leaders figure they’d better get in front of this particular train and see what they can extort from Walker in exchange for their blessing, or at least their non-hostility.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.