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Right-wing, Bible-thumpers and rednecks fueled Santorum’s win

By ALAN FRAM and JENNIFER AGIESTA
March 25, 2012

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Rick Santorum turned in his most impressive performance yet with conservative, blue-collar and religious voters as he rode to triumph Saturday in Louisiana’s Republican presidential primary, capturing robust support from people across the board, according to an exit poll of voters.

Highlighting his strength, the former Pennsylvania senator bested Mitt Romney for the first time among those calling the economy the campaign’s dominant issue. As usual this year, more voters named the economy as their top concern than any other problem and 46 percent of them said Santorum was their candidate — an embarrassment for Romney, the former venture capitalist who has claimed he knows best how to create jobs.

Romney retained his usual advantage among voters whose most prized characteristic in a GOP candidate is finding someone who can defeat President Barack Obama this fall. But illustrating the narrowness of the former Massachusetts governor‘s appeal in the state, 53 percent of his Louisiana voters were from families earning at least $100,000 a year, the first time this year that more than half of any presidential hopeful’s support has come from such high earners.

Overall, the results painted Louisiana as a state whose Republicans are tailor-made for Santorum, with large numbers of conservative and religiously motivated voters.

Santorum won about half of both conservatives and tea party supporters, his high water marks with both groups in 2012. He did slightly better among those without college degrees, another personal best with that oft-used measure of blue-collar voters.

The devoutly and openly religious Santorum also got almost 6 in 10 votes from white born-again and evangelical voters and from those saying it is important that they share religious beliefs with their candidate — his best showings of the year with two groups that are among his bedrock voters.

Santorum, a Catholic himself, won among Catholics for the first time. Analysts have ascribed their prior coolness toward him to their tendency to consider other issues more important than religious identity. He also broke new ground for himself by prevailing among city voters.

In another area where he did slightly better than previously, 42 percent Saturday cited Santorum as the candidate who best understands the typical American, about doubling the number citing Romney for that quality.

Only 1 in 5 Louisiana voters said they were influenced by a Romney aide’s comment likening his campaign’s tactics to an Etch A Sketch toy. Yet those who said Eric Fehrnstrom’s remark did play an important role in their choice leaned toward Santorum over Romney by nearly 3-1.

Even so, Santorum led by double digits among those saying the comment was not significant for them.

Asked whether Romney’s positions in the GOP primary might make him too conservative for more moderate voters in November’s general election, Fehrnstrom had said the campaign could start over in the fall, saying, “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up.”

Romney’s opponents said the remark shows he shifts his views too easily.

The few groups where Romney led included people earning over $200,000 a year and those caring little about sharing religious beliefs with their presidential favorite.

Even as some national Republican leaders have started calling for Romney’s rivals to drop out and begin uniting the party for the fall campaign, only about 1 in 4 Louisianans said they want the GOP contest to end quickly, even if their contender loses. Seven in 10 said they were happy for the party’s internal battle to continue as long as their candidate wins.

The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as voters left their polling places at 30 randomly selected sites in Louisiana. The survey involved interviews with 1,499 voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press

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3 Responses to Right-wing, Bible-thumpers and rednecks fueled Santorum’s win

  1. Sandy Price

    March 25, 2012 at 11:02 am

    …and the other side of the coin is where? The voters encouraged this religious movement and even President Bush bought the Christians with his federal grants. Religion is all the GOP has left. The threat of the End of Days and Hell and Damnation leads the entire agenda of the Republican Party.

    This morning on MSNBC Chris Hayes on his morning show “Up” featured a number of Secular writers and teachers including Dr. Richard Dawkins and they had 2 hours of the discussion of this fine mess we have in America. It is the first step to sanity in American politics but, I fear, a tad too late.

  2. Keith

    March 26, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Sandy,

    While the “Bible Thumpers” now make up a significant minority (perhaps even a majority) of the Republican Party, they STILL make up something far less than 30 percent of the American electorate as a whole.

    Clearly, by embracing these far right wing nuts, the Republicans have largely sealed their own fate as a mainstream political party.

    As I see it, its now only a matter of time before ANOTHER political force….one that is fiscally conservative but socially liberal (or to put it in layman’s terms, one that balances the books while keeping its nose out of our bedrooms) rises up to take its place.

  3. Jim B.

    March 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    So what’s with the photo at the top of this article? It shows the words — Americans for Prosperity — over and over again on the wall behind Santorum and once in front of the podium, but from here there’s a line through the words…I know it’s probably some fancy graphic line that’s supposed to help gussy up the words, but from afar, by having them looked crossed out, it gives the impression that the sponsors don’t want prosperity for Americans. Is this some type of Marxist plot!!! :)