On one hand is the Republican presidential candidate-in-waiting, Mitt Romney, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, a faith that nearly two-thirds of those polled said was very different from their own. Roughly half of those polled said they don’t believe Mormons are Christians.
Considering that evangelical Christians are one of the GOP’s most dependable voting blocs, Republican strategists might find this troubling.
Well, they shouldn’t. Despite misgivings about Mormonism, white evangelical Protestants still overwhelmingly support Romney.
On the other hand is President Barack Obama, who is a Christian. But thanks to a concerted disinformation campaign, 17 percent of those polled believe the president is a Muslim, 3 percent think he is of some “other” faith, and 31 percent said they aren’t sure. From our standpoint, let us be clear: Obama’s Christian faith is not an issue in this fall’s campaign.
The other group that has problems with the Mormon faith is black evangelical Protestants, but it is unlikely most of them would support a Republican under most circumstances.
The only place where religion seems to be making a difference is in the enthusiasm those polled had for their candidate. Republicans who are aware of Romney’s faith and are uncomfortable with it are less enthusiastic in their support than those who have no concerns about their candidate being a Mormon.
Currently, the percentage of voters who “strongly support” President Obama outnumbers those equally committed to Romney, 32 percent to 15 percent. This is a particularly important group to both candidates because the strongly committed are those most likely to vote. So, in the weeks and months ahead, both candidates will work to generate enthusiasm among the rank and file.
Failing at that, candidates will turn to negative campaigning — in fact, they already have — to diminish support among their opponent’s less-than-enthusiastic followers.
At that point, a candidate’s religion might become an issue. Hopefully, it won’t be.