Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is one of this campaign season’s biggest wild cards. It could affect evangelical turnout and even might discourage those others for whom the Mormon church and the state of Utah retain a certain cultish stigma.
“MITT ROMNEY’S Mormonism threatens his presidential candidacy in the same way that John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism did when he ran for president in 1960. Overt and covert references to Romney’s religion — subtle whispering as well as unabashed inquiries about the controversial sect he belongs to — plague his campaign. None of his responses so far have silenced the skeptics.
Recent polls indicate that from 25% to 35% of registered voters have said they would not consider voting for a Mormon for president, and conventional wisdom from the pundits suggests that Romney’s biggest hurdle is his faith. Everyone seems eager to make his Mormonism an issue, from blue state secularists to red state evangelicals who view the religion as a non-Christian cult.”
Mitt Romney has been at pains to demonstrate that his religion is in line with the American mainstream, though last month he raised eyebrows by citing Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth as his favorite novel. The title is better known, of course, as the infamous 2001 John Travolta movie adaptation that bombed at the box office and is currently ranked 64th in the Internet Movie Database’s “Bottom 100” films category.
Still, Romney has persisted in efforts to reach out to evangelicals and more mainline protestant denominations without distancing themselves from Mormonism. The question is whether respondents are willing to admit politically incorrect beliefs to those administering polls. Romney is in a fairly healthy position in the race right now, which could change if Fred Thompson formally enters the election. But if people who reject his Mormonism are unwilling to admit it publicly, Romney’s poll numbers may show a variant of the “Bradley Effect” — the phenomenon which often gives black candidates a phantom several points in opinion polls that do not translate into votes on election day.
To most outsiders, Romney seems unwavering and fully dedicated to to his faith. But some Mormons are suggesting that the former governor is showing insufficient fealty to his religion’s history and scripture.
From The New York Times:
‘Some Mormons have watched with concern how Mr. Romney has responded to grilling by interviewers about his church’s distinctive doctrines. […]