With so many Southerners in the pool of potential Republican candidates for the presidency in 2016, it's not surprising that issues important to evangelical voters are garnering attention, though they will likely not stay at the forefront, says pollster Matt Towery, who appeared Wednesday on Newsmax TV's
"This overall issue of the religious freedom bill continues in Arkansas and in other states, Georgia recently considered it, but chose not to pass it this year, but it will come back next year," he said. "It will play a role in these presidential campaigns, but I don't believe it will be a critical role. You're ultimately going to see these races turn into other issues that are more pocketbook oriented or more foreign policy oriented."
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The announced and presumed candidacies of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham have resulted in a "resurgence of the evangelicals," Towery said.
"Those who remember the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, the secret to the election in part was not only Jimmy Carter, but it was also that the evangelicals were first really harnessed into a power they used," he said.
"A very modern technique, get out the vote, calls, direct mail, which was a new thing at the time, and we're beginning to see the evangelicals come back out. They were out of the business for a little while and didn't play a big role in either the McCain or the Romney nomination, but you're going to see that as a much more potent factor as we go into these early primaries."
Despite the current wave, Towery expects the debate for 2016 to ultimately focus on foreign policy.
"We have a huge problem right now with a White House that appears to have 'gone rogue,' and you're seeing a number of U.S. Senate members that one time were considered very moderate all signing letters basically protesting the president's move," he said.
"That's something you have not seen before: an invitation by the speaker of the House to the head of another nation, that being Benjamin Netanyahu. These are things that we've not seen in the past. The geopolitical issue and the overall stability of the Middle East are going to become far more important than they were four years ago."
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