Moral and personal considerations will undoubtedly mingle with the political in Bush's stem cell deliberations. But his decision could also tell us much about whether he wants to bet his reelection primarily on mobilizing a moral majority. One senior White House advisor says that while Bush strategists don't believe they face a mutually exclusive choice between courting believers and nonbelievers, if they had to put their chips with one group they would rather bet "on our side of the equation." The reason: signs that spiritual values are growing more important to Americans, particularly the baby boomers as they age.
But it remains to be seen if Bush can really increase his vote much more among the observant. If anything, the influence of values on voting may have peaked in 2000 because of President Clinton's sex scandal. "I don't think Bush can get much higher [among the devout], and absent a scandal he can drift back lower," says John C. Green, a political scientist who directed the University of Akron study. Even while focusing on the observant, key Bush advisors agree he can't lose sight of more secular constituencies--like younger working women--if he's to move beyond his strongholds in the South and Mountain West.