Did Romney’s Mormonism Hurt Him In South Carolina? Sure Looks Like It

This particular result from the CNN Exit Poll of yesterday’s South Carolina raises an eyebrow (click image to enlarge) :

It is, I suppose, amusing that the guy who was raised Lutheran, became a Baptist in college, and converted to Catholicism after marrying the third wife he’d been carrying on an extra-martial affair with gets the support of a plurality of those who think a candidates religious beliefs matter. However, the opposing numbers for Romney raise the possibility that his Mormonism, or to put it more precisely evangelical bigotry toward Mormons, is still an issue. How that impacts the race going forward is an open question.

H/T: Buzzfeed

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Religion, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Can’t say I’m the slightest bit surprised. A significant chunk of evangelical voters are so not down with the LDS.

  2. David M says:

    It will probably help him out west in Utah, Idaho and Nevada. Overall that probably won’t be enough to offset it as a negative anywhere else though.

  3. James Joyner says:

    A more charitable reading of the data would be that people who vote based on religious ideology are more likely to vote for candidates who spend a lot of time talking about religious ideology on the stump. Romney is running as a technocrat and businessman, not a guy trying to save the soul of America.

  4. PJ says:

    If Romney being a Mormon is going to be a problem (which I have believed for a while), then things like this need to stop.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @PJ: Wow, read the comments on that thread. Harder to tell who the posters would be more scared of as president, a “Mooslim” or a “Moorman.”

    Me, I asume equal obnoxious religious nuttiness from everyone.

  6. @PJ:

    Hmmm, kinda points out the bigotry runs both ways, to some extent. Everyone rightfully condemns people who refuse to support Romney just because he’s mormon. But on the other hand, aren’t people supporting him in a way they’d not support any other candidate just because he is mormon just as bad?

  7. mattb says:

    Following @James Joyner point, I have to wonder how much Gingrich’s “moral capitalist” argument helped him against Romney and if he’s going to continue it for the rest of the race…

  8. anjin-san says:

    Did Romney’s Mormonism Hurt Him In South Carolina?


  9. michael reynolds says:

    Ah, it seems like only the last, oh, several years, that Republicans were telling me that their party had outgrown dog whistle racism and religious bigotry, and that they weren’t just the party of white rage-o-holics. I can’t recall how many times I was denounced for suggesting that the GOP were hypocrites who didn’t really give a damn about moral issues.

    And then: Gingrich.

  10. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:


    Your observation reminds me of something that I heard Martin Marty, a Lutheran theologian and professor at the University of Chicago, IIRC, say on a taped transcription of a workshop.

    He noted that “Lutherans believe in thithing. They don’t actually practice thithing, but they believe in it, and that’s what really matters, after all.”

    Evangelicals have the same fault.

    @Stormy Dragon: Is it possible for us to get through one post without someone resorting to a “the other side does it, too” false equivalency?

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ig’rant cracker: Mormons, on the other hand, actually practice tithing.

    Also, I’m reminded of an old joke told by the late, lamented Lewis Grizzard: Why don’t Baptists make love standing up? They don’t want anyone to think they’re dancing.

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    To a lesser extent perhaps but I suspect the Mormons have the same problem The Jewish people and the Romanish(Gypsies) have had – a society apart from the society they live in. When I was growing up my father owned a grocery store in an neighborhood with a large Orthodox Jewish population. They robbed him blind and thought it was OK because he was not Jewish( I remember we had to keep the caviar under lock and key). There was also a Gypsy community that “shopped” at the store – ditto. Needless to say my father was a bit prejudiced. I ran into something similar in my first job – we had a franchise holder that was Mormon. I was forced to spend extra time on their books because they were constantly trying to rip us off. It was OK because we weren’t Mormon – that’s what they told me when confronted. I’m not saying it’s right but anytime a group separates itself from the society as a whole there will be distrust and prejudice.

  13. @Just nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Since I’m neither an evangelical nor a mormon, I don’t have an “other side” in this fight. Just pointing that it’s hard to complain about religious based identity groups when it hurts your campaign while at the same time taking advantage of it when it doesn’t.

  14. Fiona says:

    That Romney’s Mormonism is a problem for the evangelical base, many of whom view Mormons as a dangerous cult, isn’t a surprise. What surprising is that anyone would think that it wouldn’t be an issue. He’d probably face even more prejudice if he were Jewish.

  15. Hey Norm says:

    And just yesterday on another thread I was taking heat for calling the Republican electorate of S. carolina bigoted.

  16. Franklin says:

    @James Joyner: Heh, one of my other favorite jokes, which can be used for almost any denomination, goes something like the following:

    A man dies and goes to Heaven. At the gates, he is taken for a tour of Heaven. “Here are the Catholics over here, the Baptists over here … and we have to be quiet now as I show you the Lutherans”. After they pass the Lutheran section of Heaven, the guy asks, “Why did we have to be quiet?” His guide replies, “Because they think they’re the only ones here.”

  17. rdemarti says:

    This is one of the reasons Republicans can not attract minorities to the party. The party claim that is a “Big Tent” party that welcomes everyone. We claim that through our belief in the Constitution and free market enterprise, everyone has the opportunity to achieve success.

    It sounds great and it should attract so many people compared to the socialist welfare trap that is the Democrat party. Yet, we still have bigots in our own party. Religious bigots to be specific.

    They are the ones who have given the democrats ammunition on calling us right- winged extremist.

    Many of these individuals scream for purity in social and fiscal conservatism. They have a narrow view of what conservatism is.

    They are hypocrites.

    If they wanted the most socially conservative, they would have voted for Santorum.

    Everyone of the current Republican candidates have voted for or supported positions that could not be considered conservative. Romney has “Romneycare”. Santorum has his votes against “Right to Work” and support for labor unions. Gingrich has supported individual mandates for 20 years, still believes in man made global warming in spite of saying it was a mistake to sit with Nancy on the couch. He still had a chapter in his latest book, written by a leading global warming alarmist, until he removed it last month. He has stated he is a Progressive and his favorite President was FDR. He too wants to ” Fundamentally Change America”. They all have baggage.

    These so called purist, didn’t vote for Santorum or Romney. Why? Because they voted in anger. They voted for Newt because he stuck it to the MSM.

    They put blinders on when it came to Newt’s record and past.

    If religion, social values and character mattered, then Newt should never have gotten their vote.

    Here is a man who has had 3 marriages and cheated on 2 wives. These purist will continue to hammer Bill Clinton and other Democrats for their infidelities yet Newt gets a pass. They will say Newt didn’t lie about it under oath and has been honest about it. Yeah honest! Newt Gingrich lied to his wife and the AMERICAN PEOPLE for over SIX years about his cheating. All the while lecturing the American public about values and morals!

    Why doesn’t his character and morals count. Because he found the “right” God and asked for forgiveness?

    It is hypocritical.

    Santorum and Romny have both lead lives that would be considered more virtuous and Christian than Newt ever has or ever will.
    But Santorum doesn’t bloviate and Romney has the wrong religion.
    This double standard and hypocrisy makes me think about changing my party affiliation to Independent. It makes me ashamed that Republicans can make excuses for one of our own yet vocally condemn Democrats for the same thing. If we don’t stand for All people and religions, then we stand as two faced bigots, no different than the Democrats.

  18. Hey Norm says:

    @ rdemarti…

    “… the socialist welfare trap that is the Democrat party…”

    The number of public sector jobs has been reduced under Obama…what Republican President ever did that? And how does that qualify as socialism. Maybe that word does not mean what you think it means.
    More people were added to foodstamps while George W. Bush was in office than have enrolled under Obama’s presidency: Under Bush, the program grew by 14.7 million individuals; under Obama so far, it’s grown by 14.2 million, and, as of October, it was declining. And the large enrollment under Obama is entirely due to the Bush Contraction.
    The facts just don’t match your ideology.