At one level the answer to this question is straightforward: of course religion made a difference. It always has in a nation in which well over 90 per cent of the population declare themselves to be believers, and over 40 per cent report that they attended a place of worship in the previous week (a figure that rises to 60 per cent if the period in question is extended to one month).2 If a would-be president does
not take these figures into account, he or she is unlikely to be elected – something that the Democrats learnt to their cost in both 2000 and 2004. At the same time, however, it is clear that the 2008 election was won, ultimately, on the capacity of the Democrat Barack Obama, rather than the Republican John McCain, to deal with the global economic crisis that became ever more dominant as the election approached. How then can we reconcile these points of view?