Correction to This Article
A Sunday Fix item in the May 6 A-section incorrectly said that Chris Matthews asked the Republican presidential candidates in their May 3 debate whether any of them did not believe in evolution. The question came from the Politico's Jim VandeHei.

Eager to Be Reagan's Heir, but Not Bonzo's Cousin

(By Jamie Rector -- Getty Images)
By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, May 6, 2007

When former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.) each raised his hand in response to a question from moderator Chris Matthews during Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in California, signaling that they did not believe in evolution, it raised more than a few eyebrows among journalists.

But a look at public polling on the issue reveals that the three men aren't far from the mainstream in that belief.

A recent Newsweek survey presented people with three explanations for the origins of human life: that humans developed over millions of years, from lesser to more advanced forms of life, while God guided the process; that God played no hand in the process; and that God created humans in their present form.

The first option is a sort of hybrid creation-evolution endorsed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the debate; "I believe in evolution," he said. "But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon . . . that the hand of God is there also."

The second option is evolution as explained by science, and the third summarizes the idea of creationism.

Nearly half the sample, 48 percent, said the creationism option was closest to their beliefs, and 30 percent chose the hybrid option. Just 13 percent of the sample chose evolution alone as the best approximation of their view of human development.

Those results have been mirrored in a series of Gallup polls that have asked nearly the same question at several points over the past 25 years.

And they probably shouldn't be all that surprising given that, in exit polling conducted on Election Day 2006, more than 80 percent of Americans said they either attend church "weekly" (45 percent) or "occasionally" (38 percent).

Or when you take into account that a 2004 ABC News poll found 61 percent said the creation story in the Bible -- that God created the world in six days -- is "literally true."

The reality is that many Americans see themselves as believers both in a higher power and in science. In a Time poll conducted last fall, 49 percent said it is possible to believe in both evolution and "divine creation by God," whereas 41 percent said the two ideas are incompatible.

Democratic Donors Beware

It's deja vu all over again for Democratic donors.

"You can count on a delightful evening with fabulous company and food," read one recent fundraising invite for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who was elected in November. Newbies Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) also are out shaking the trees.

Singer Emmylou Harris will headline a May 17 event for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who isn't up for reelection until 2010. Nor is Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, but she'll be collecting cash too, with a fundraiser June 20.

Most of the 2006 winners are seeking to retire debt, and folks such as Murray and Leahy enjoy prominent positions in the Senate. But they're competing for Democratic dollars with eight 2008 presidential candidates, 244 House and Senate incumbents facing reelection next year, three official party committees and scores of Democratic challengers who are lining up for 2008 congressional races.

For some donors, it all adds up to two dozen or more phone calls and e-mails per day seeking checks. One particularly aggressive solicitor: Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who is expected to seek a fifth term in 2008 and considers himself a major GOP target.

Nine days: Didn't hear enough from your favorite Republican presidential candidate during Thursday's debate? Never fear. The 10 men gather again on May 15 in Columbia, S.C., for another meeting of the minds, this one sponsored by Fox News.

33 days: Former Vice President Al Gore wraps up his book tour for "The Assault on Reason," a not-so-subtle indictment of the Bush administration. Seems like as good a time as any to announce what he plans to do politically in 2008.

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