Here’s a fairly muddled article by our friend Gary Rosen that predicts and hopes that the Democratic candidate may actually be more religiously attuned that the Republican one in 2008. Giuliani and McCain, the thinking goes, seem and probably are less pious than Obama and Senator Clinton. I don’t think Hillary has the capability really to "sell" her faith. But Obama, we have to admit, seems (in the way he talks) and probably is more religious than Giuliani and McCain, and that fact or appearance may move religiously observant voters, especially if they think that there’s no reliable social conservative in the race anyway. It surely isn’t in the electoral interest of the Republicans that the faith gap be closed, especially when they aren’t faring so well on other fronts.
Let me add my own quite questionable social science research. I interviewed a small number of Presidential Scholar candidates at Berry College last week. They were, with one exception, obviously devout and very smart middle-class white southern Christian kids. I asked them who should be elected president in 2008. The name most mentioned was Hillary Clinton, and always in a negative way. The only other name mentioned at all--several times--was Obama, each time in a positive way for his hopeful and inspirational message. I mentioned Giuliani and McCain on occasion to fill the silence and got no response.
So all in all, there are reasons for thinking that Giuliani (competence, toughness, eloquence, likeability, experience) would be the strongest Republican candidate. But others point more and more to Romney as the strongest and smartest faith-based or inspirational candidate. The spectre of Obama, among oother things, calls into question the extent to which social or religious conservatives can be taken for granted.