Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good Faith Effort?

While I don’t want to seem to be engaging in all Romney bashing all the time, I must weigh in with yet another reason that I greet the prospect of his being the GOP nominee with trepidation: he very well may be unelectable. What? Not the “presidential looking” Romney you say. Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich are the unelectable ones. We keep hearing that the experienced, politically savvy, and moderate sounding Romney is the one with the best chance of unseating Barack Obama.

There’s just one problem that that. The elephant in the GOP room that no one seems to want to talk about, but that everyone should be aware of is that Romney’s religion could be the factor that dooms his chance of ever becoming president. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to talk about religion as a disqualifier. We shouldn’t have religious tests for candidates or make their religion a basis for whether or not we support them (for the record, I would almost always prefer a conservative atheist to a progressive Catholic). But the reality is that some voters do exactly that.

The Cult of Anti-Mormonism - WSJ.com:

Partly this has to do with white evangelicals, who are an important bloc in the Republican coalition. Thus many stories on the issue of Mr. Romney's Mormonism invoke a striking May survey from the Pew Research Center. According to this survey, 34% of white evangelicals report themselves "less likely" to vote for a Mormon for president.

That's fair enough as far as it goes. The same Pew survey, however, shows something much less reported. This is that, overall, more Democrats than Republicans are hostile to a Mormon candidacy (31% to 23%). More interesting still is Pew's finding that when it comes to this particular animus, "liberal Democrats stand out, with 41% saying they would be less likely to support a Mormon candidate."

You might argue that Romney wouldn’t have many of these open-minded Democrats voting for him anyway. But it should be at least somewhat alarming that a third of white evangelicals would factor his faith into their decision on how to vote. And that poll doesn’t seem to be an outlier.

Republican Mitt Romney Deflects Questions on Mormon Faith - WSJ.com:

A June poll by Quinnipiac University found 36% of voters were somewhat or entirely uncomfortable with a Mormon president. Only atheists and Muslims triggered more discomfort.

So this time we find that over a third of voters are either “somewhat or entirely uncomfortable with a Mormon president.” This doesn’t mean of course that they still might not vote for Mitt Romney instead of Barack Obama, but if only a portion of this 36% indeed did allow their prejudice to sway their judgment it might be enough to influence the election results.

No matter how bad the economy is and how unpopular the president is, it’s never easy to defeat an incumbent in the White House. President Obama will have a large campaign war chest, the power of the office, and a largely compliant media on his side in 2012. Whomever the Republicans send against him will need to run a strong campaign and there will be scant margin for error if they are to eventually prevail. Given that a good chunk of the electorate seems to consider Romney’s religion to be a factor in how they vote, can the GOP really afford to take a chance on that bias deciding the election?