It may be too early to write the obit for Mitt Romney’s campaign, especially on the morning after his victory–little noticed to be sure–in the Wyoming caucuses; but it’s not too early to think about the role of anti-Mormonism in his Iowa showing and current wobbly fortunes. In the end, this is not going to be an easy question to answer, since a range of considerations are in play, not least his imperfect record as a social conservative. Would the evangelical rank and file have come around had there not been a Huckabee to win their hearts? There’s a counterfactual to ponder. My sense, though, is that the evangelical rank and file had been looking for reasons not to support “the Mormon candidate,” and that had Romney simply been an Episcopalian, say, he would have had a much easier time with them. All GOP candidates for president over the past two decades have had to tug the forelock before the pooh-bahs of the Religious Right. George H.W. Bush did 20 years ago, and John McCain did last year. But Romney had to work harder at it, and caught more flak for it. He finally gave his religion speech, but from this vantage point it does look like it was too little too late. In short: no JFK moment for Mormons this campaign cycle.
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About the author
Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service