The idea that John McCain would benefit from picking a pro-choicer is rooted in the assumption that he already has locked up the base. In his recent case for Joe Lieberman, for instance, John Podhoretz wrote that, "McCain no longer has to close the sale with conservatives," bizarrely citing as evidence the fact that there are two best selling anti-Obama books.
But examining actual data on the white evangelical vote just released by Pew tells a different story. At first glance, it looks like McCain is doing quite well -- he's beating Obama 68-24 among this group, which is virtually identical to the 71-24 advantage Bush had over Kerry in August of 2004. However, if you take a deeper look at the numbers, it turns out that McCain's support is much softer -- only 28 percent "strongly" support McCain, compared to 57 percent who "strongly" supported Bush.
What this says to me is that if McCain continues his outreach to evangelicals, he'll see his numbers improve and may end up with comparable numbers as Bush (and this survey was taken prior to McCain's strong performance at Saddleback and the subsequent focus on Obama's extreme pro-choice views). However, as it is, the less enthusiastic support makes me wonder about turnout. In Ohio, for instance, if evangelical turnout dropped just a few points at the same time that Obama was able to boost black turnout, that could very well be the ball game. If McCain continues to send the right signals to this voting bloc, he may very well be fine. But, based on these numbers, it seems he doesn't have much wiggle room to gamble on a pro-choice pick.Â