Cover Story

Man of faith, Man of the hour

"Man of faith, Man of the hour" Continued...

Issue: "Bush's moral mandate," Nov. 13, 2004

Mr. Spalding points out that one in five voters on Nov. 2 cited "moral values" as the most important issue driving them to the polls. "No one saw that coming. They expected it to be all about jobs and terrorism." Because of their religious blind spot, he says, the mainstream media "completely missed the larger movement in American politics-that is, that we are seeing a moral alignment of great magnitude for this country."

That moral alignment, he says, is "about a whole basket of issues, not just abortion. . . . We know abortion is very important, and the pro-life vote went 70 percent plus for Bush." But it was another moral issue-one that got very little attention during the campaign-that may have turned the entire election in the Republicans' favor. "This was clearly a 9/11 election," Mr. Spalding says. "I believe the post-9/11 threat was the single most important issue with most voters. But if there was a side issue that decided several states and gave Bush the presidency, it was the defense-of-marriage issue."

Indeed, constitutional initiatives limiting marriage to one man and one woman swept the board on Tuesday, winning by margins of 60 percent to 80 percent in all 11 states where they appeared on the ballot. Though gay marriage was rarely mentioned during the campaign, Mr. Bush did come out early in favor of a Federal Marriage Amendment-a position opposed by Mr. Kerry. That seemed to work in the president's favor: Of the 11 states voting on the measure, Mr. Bush carried nine of them. (Only Michigan and Oregon went to Mr. Kerry.)

But it was Ohio-the linchpin of the entire election-where the issue appeared to be most pivotal. All day, exit polls had predicted good news for the Democrats, and newscasters privy to the poll results could barely contain their glee. Then, when the polls closed in Ohio at 7:30 p.m., came the first hint that something might go seriously wrong with the Kerry momentum.

Within moments after voting ended in the Buckeye State-and more than 12 hours before Mr. Kerry was willing to admit defeat there-the networks predicted a big win for Ohio's toughest-in-the-nation ban on gay marriages and civil unions. On NBC, Tom Brokaw let out a low whistle. The implications were obvious: A 2-to-1 winning margin for the marriage amendment (known in Ohio as Issue 1) suggested a bigger GOP turnout than anyone had anticipated.

All across the country, politically savvy Republicans seemed to get a second wind from the quick victory for Issue 1. At a bar in Arlington, Va., the site of a local Republican victory celebration, many were glued to presidential election returns in Florida and Ohio. But Tess Taylor, a Filipino-American wearing a casual gray suit festooned with Bush-Cheney buttons, said she was most interested in the 11 state measures on gay marriage. Among the Filipino community in the greater Washington area, she'd seen many of her friends switch from Democrat to Republican over the course of the campaign, largely because of marriage and family issues.

When Issue 1 breezed to victory in Ohio, she was convinced the Christian vote would win Mr. Bush a second term. "I'm very, very positive it's Bush's," she said around 11 p.m., hours before anyone had called the election. "It's the [religious] vote that's going to win," she said. "It's the first time that I've seen Christians and Catholics really rallying together."

More than theological differences, the marriage issue appeared to cross racial lines in a way that benefited Republicans. "No one on either side disputes that the marriage amendment motivated the GOP base," said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage. But what many analysts missed is the way the issue attracted normally Democratic voters, especially African-Americans. "Our polling found that support for the marriage amendment was highest among African-Americans," Mr. Daniels said. Even more revealing: A CNN exit poll in Ohio showed that Mr. Bush's standing among African-American voters soared from 9 percent to 16 percent specifically because of the marriage amendment.

With passions running high among the GOP's evangelical base plus crossover support from blacks and Hispanics, Mr. Bush collected more than 59 million votes, the most ever for a presidential candidate. He avoided the emotional roller coaster of 2000 by handily winning Florida's 27 electoral votes, then flipped 5 more electoral votes to the Republican column by eking out a 1-point win in New Mexico. Iowa looked poised to flip as well, but Mr. Bush's 13,000-vote advantage could be tested by yet-to-be-counted provisional and absentee ballots. Mr. Kerry managed to steal only tiny New Hampshire from the Republicans, leaving him 18 votes short of his goal in the Electoral College.

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