Morality was the key factor in determining the race, or so it seems by the exit polls released by several sources. As predicted by evangelical leaders in the past 7 months of the contentious battle for the White House, morality issues such as gay “marriages,” abortion “rights” and gun ownership brought the otherwise immobile conservative voters out to the polls, allowing President Bush to gain four more years, expanding the Republican Party’s advantage in Congress, and approving amendments in 11 states to protect traditional marriage.
While the war on Iraq, terrorism and economy were key issues in the 2004 election, the single top issue cited by voters was “moral values.” According to CNN’s analysis of the exit data, morality was cited as the number one concern by 22 percent of voters; four fifths of those voters chose the Bush camp. The data correlates with the high support received by President Bush from Protestants who go to church weekly – seventy percent of the cohort voted for Bush. According to an MSNBC poll, 78 percent of “white, evangelical born again Christians” voted for Bush and 96 percent of “white religious conservatives” gave Bush their votes.
"Despite the conventional political wisdom that moral concerns are a drag on a political ticket, it was values that energized voters," said James Kennedy, president of the Florida-based Coral Ridge Ministries.
“The faith factor was the difference in this election,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Even The New York Times acknowledged that the faith factor was determinative.”
“Not only did more than three-fourths of evangelicals vote for Bush, but “a whole lot more of them voted” than in 2000,” continued Land. “[Ohio Secretary of State] Ken Blackwell estimated that 25 percent of Bush’s raw vote in Ohio came from white evangelicals.”
“Because people of faith voted their values, their beliefs and their convictions, we have for the first time since 1988 a president who won a majority of the popular vote,” said Land. “Bush is the first war-time president in modern history to not only win but to increase his majority in the House and the Senate.”
The former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer agreed, calling it the “year of the values voter.”
“The upsets in the Senate and House races and the 11 marriage amendments showed that no matter where you lived, people came out to support the kind of values that founded and built this great nation,” Bauer, president of American Values, said in a written statement.
“For too long, liberal political pundits have been telling us that issues like marriage and life divide us as a people,” Bauer said. “But it’s clear that while those issues may be controversial, they are not divisive because people reach across such boundaries as party, economic status and ethnic group to join together to support and protect the American family.”
“People reach across such boundaries as party, economic status and ethnic group to join together to support and protect the American family. This is the year of the 'values voter,’” said Bauer.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council also lauded the victory by giving credit to the “values voters.”
“Values voters have ushered President George W. Bush down the aisle for a second term. What does this mean? It means that if the president stays true to his word, the next four years will be defining ones for family issues, including marriage, life and taxes,” said Perkins.
"Clearly, the supporters of traditional marriage helped President Bush down the aisle to a second term," Perkins said. "The next four years are a prime opportunity to focus further on issues important to our constituents and to the cultural health of this great country."
Focus on the Family founder and president Dr. James Dobson agreed.
This election is a resounding victory in the battle for American families. We applaud the re-election of President Bush, who has shown himself a true champion for the family and of traditional values. Those who care deeply about the moral issues facing this nation have cause to be encouraged by the prospect of the Bush administration promoting policies supportive of these values throughout his second term,” said Dobson.
"We further celebrate the overwhelming successes of pro-family candidates in other races, and in the 11 states that passed amendments to their constitutions protecting traditional marriage. The victorious difference was made by 'values voters,' who have sent the clear message that morality in America is alive and well,” said Dobson.
Therefore, added Dobson, "Those who care deeply about the moral issues facing this nation have cause to be encouraged by the prospect of the Bush administration promoting policies supportive of the family and family values throughout his second term."
Dobson, Perkins and Land were involved in a nationwide campaign entitled the “ivotevalues” initiative to get evangelical voters out to the polls. The campaign, seemingly successfully, set out throughout the summer to add more than 1 million evangelicals to the voter rolls.
“I want to take a moment to thank all the Southern Baptists and others who supported the iVoteValues campaign and who voted their values, beliefs and convictions and who encouraged others to vote their values, beliefs and convictions,” Land said following Bush’s victory.
Dobson meanwhile also participated in the election by holding rallies in three states with tight Senate races. One of the largest victories for the senate was the defeat of minority leader Tom Daschle; Daschle’s defeat marked the first time since 1952 that a senator serving in his party leadership was ousted. Other notable victories for republicans were David Vitter’s win in Louisiana – the first time the state had elected a Republican senator since the Reconstruction – and the North Carolina seat lost by vice presidential nominee John Edwards.
Dobson celebrated the victories, saying: “With Minority Leader Tom Daschle being ousted by the voters of South Dakota, a major obstacle in the path of prudent judicial nominees and sensible legislation has been removed.”
Carrie Gordon Earll, senior policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, explained the implications of “Dumping Daschle.”
"Dumping Daschle -- which has been the theme of his opponents in South Dakota -- is going to have a major impact on the Senate,” said Earll. "[It will have an impact] on marriage, hopefully on human cloning. Daschle almost single-handedly blocked a vote on human cloning a couple of years."
To date, with only one race still outstanding the Republican party’s Senate majority grew from 51 to 54. House Republicans were guaranteed at least a two-seat gain to 231 with three races still undecided in the 435-member chamber.
Meanwhile, President Bush acknowledged the strength of prayers, during his brief acceptance speech.
"I want to thank the thousands of our supporters across our country," he said. "I want to thank you for your hugs on the rope lines. I want to thank you for your prayers on the rope lines. I want to thank you for your kind words on the rope lines. I want to thank you for everything you did to make the calls and to put up the signs, to talk to your neighbors and to get out the vote. And because you did the incredible work, we are celebrating today.
Said Bush: "There's an old saying, 'Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.' In four historic years, America has been given great tasks, and faced them with strength and courage. Our people have restored the vigor of this economy and shown resolve and patience in a new kind of war. Our military has brought justice to the enemy, and honor to America. Our nation has defended itself and served the freedom of all mankind. I'm proud to lead such an amazing country, and I'm proud to lead it forward."