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Battle For The Bible Belt

Avi Friedman

As America’s largest evangelical group gets ready for its annual pro-Israel convention next week in Washington, Palestinian groups are working hard to sway Israel’s Christian supporters to their side. Can Israel-supporters still consider this crucial and influential bloc of votes to be in their hip-pocket?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Many American Jews hope and even pray that the GOP will field a strong presidential candidate in 2012 that will sweep into the White House on a wave of pro-Israel evangelical support. But what most don’t know is that pro-Palestinian groups have recently put evangelicals on their radar screens and are making efforts to drive a wedge between America’s Christian-Zionists and Israel.

Nearly 70 million people — or about 23 percent of America’s population count themselves as members of the evangelical camp, known for their overwhelmingly pro-Israel sentiments. And as a voting bloc, they are even stronger. A 2010 post-election survey conducted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition found that 29 percent of voters were Evangelical Christians and 78 percent of that vote went to Republican candidates. More than 50 percent of all Tea Party movement members are also conservative evangelicals.

There are at least ten states, mainly in the south and Midwest, where no Congressional candidate would be considered viable without at least tacit support from the evangelical movement.

On a national level, too, evangelical support has been helping presidents get elected for nearly forty years. Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and the two Carolinas (all important evangelical centers) have a combined 83 votes in the Electoral College — nearly one-third of the 270 electoral votes a president needs to win election. Pro-Israel presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush all benefited heavily from evangelical support.

But Israel’s supporters can no longer assume that, come next election, this crucial and influential bloc of votes will automatically be in their hip pocket.

 

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