Got mojo? Evangelicals and the 2012 election

Guess what?

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has the "faithful in his corner."

At least that's what a Columbus Dispatch headline asked readers to believe. According to the Sunday story in the Ohio newspaper, evangelicals may play a bigger role in the election next year than they did in 2008. The top of the 900-word report:

CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — An event Thursday night at Ohio Christian University combining equal parts religion and politics suggested that God has returned to Ohio’s presidential campaigning.

Evangelical Christian voters, largely dormant in the 2008 election of Democrat Barack Obama after taking a dominant role in the 2004 re-election of Republican George W. Bush, appear to have their mojo back heading into 2012.

The lead source on this breaking news?

Read on:

“Whoever the Republicans nominate against Barack Obama, this vote is going to turn out, and it’s going to turn out big,” said Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition whose new group, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, sponsored the university rally.

Um, OK. The event organizer and lead advocate reports that — yessiree — the evangelical troops are much more fired up than they were four years ago. Who needs any actual survey data or hard facts to back up the claim? Let's take Reed's word for it and report it as news.

But that's just the beginning of the squishy-as-Jello reporting in this vague story filled with unattributed assertions and generalizations.

More of the same:

Cain, whose 28-minute speech — er, sermon — was more the grist of a preacher than a politician, drew enthusiastic applause from an overwhelmingly white audience that seemed eager to replace the nation’s first black president with the man who would be the Republicans’ first black nominee.

Now, exactly what did Cain say that transformed his speech into a sermon and gave his words "more the grist of a preacher than a politician?" That's a crazy question, I know. And unfortunately, I have no answer.

Based on reading this story, I don't know if Cain quoted Scriptures. I don't know if he discussed a personal relationship with Jesus. I don't know if he used the F-word (faith), prayed or referenced his Creator.

All I know is the amount of his 28-minute speech — er, sermon — that the Dispatch actually quotes. That would be zilch. As in zero. As in none.

Keep reading, and the report detours into a discussion of Mitt Romney's Mormonism and then quotes a couple of political scientists (including the respected John Green), both of whom talk in general terms about evangelical voting trends. Strikingly, neither expert says anything remotely close to confirming the lede's assertion about evangelicals reclaiming their mojo — assuming they ever lost it.

Guess what? I wouldn't put a lot of faith in this report.

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