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GOP's Soft Sell Swayed the Amish

"Nope," Amos said. "That's another thing we liked about him."

Not to mention, the 4,000 Republican volunteers who blanketed Lancaster County for months and visited the fairs and farm auctions in Amish country talking up the president's Christian values. That helped them think abortion might be outlawed, Sam said. Thinking of Bush's Christian values even helped with their questions about the carnage in Iraq.

In Intercourse, Pa., the Bush campaign bus attracts Amish attention. Some of the religion's adherents cited the Republican's Christian values as a plus. (Vinny Tennis -- Intelligencer Journal Via AP)

And so, while Bush lost Pennsylvania by more than 120,000 votes, he nearly halved his losing margin from 2000. In large part, that was because of the GOP's push among rural voters. Here in Lancaster County, where the party set a goal of besting the Democrat by 70,000 votes (or about 10,000 more than in 2000), Bush ended up winning by 70,896. Several hundred of those votes came from men in suspenders and black suits and women in bonnets and wide-skirt black dresses. Republicans registered more than 300 new voters in each of three mostly Amish districts. In Leacock Township, the GOP nearly doubled its voter rolls, from 1,000 to 1,800, with all but a handful of the new voters being Amish or Mennonite.

Just as everyone predicted the plain folks would not vote, the postmortems all suggested the Amish vote was a fluke. Amos -- another Amos, who sells wooden toys and other Amish crafts at a roadside stand -- said that bothers him. He could see more plain people voting next time, he said, "for another candidate with good morals."

Sam, the carpenter-journalist, had read reports suggesting that the GOP manipulated the Amish. That did not sit well at all. "They didn't come here just recruiting the Amish," he said. "They were trying to get anybody to vote."

The Amish, in turn, voted with pure hearts, he said, asking for nothing in return.

Or almost nothing.

"We're trying to get tickets for the inauguration," he said. "Do you know how to go about getting those?"

-- Evelyn Nieves

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