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With Alabama and Mississippi losses, Romney continues to stumble in Bible Belt
Mitt Romney has struggled to connect with Southern evangelicals.
March 14th, 2012
11:51 AM ET

With Alabama and Mississippi losses, Romney continues to stumble in Bible Belt

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – Mitt Romney’s losses in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday offered more stark evidence of a huge stumbling in his quest for the GOP nomination and the White House: his difficulty winning in the evangelical-rich Bible Belt.

With Rick Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi, he and Newt Gingrich have taken all but one Bible Belt state in the primaries.

In Alabama, where self-described white evangelicals made up 75% of Republican voters Tuesday, Romney got 27% of their votes, compared with 35% for Santorum and 32% for Gingrich, according to exit polls.

In Mississippi, where white evangelicals accounted for 80% of the vote, Romney got 29% evangelical support, compared with 35% for Santorum and 32% for Gingrich.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

Romney is a Mormon, while Santorum and Gingrich are Catholics. Recent polls show that about half of white evangelicals say Mormonism is not a Christian faith.

“This has nothing to do with religion but with the fact that Romney is only recently pro-life and only recently able to articulate an argument against same-sex marriage,” said Richard Land, the public policy chief at the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest evangelical denomination.

“Romney would have had a less difficult pathway to the nomination if he had been more Mormon – if he had taken the positions of his church on abortion and marriage earlier,” Land said.

But exit polls suggest that views about religion played a big role in Tuesday’s primaries.

Nearly half of voters in Alabama and Mississippi said the religious beliefs of the candidates mattered a great deal, and Romney fared poorly among those voters, winning 26% of them in Mississippi and just 16% in Alabama.

“Religion is a proxy for trustworthiness of a candidate, especially for white evangelical voters,” said Robert P. Jones, a pollster who focuses on religion and values questions. “The thinking goes that if there’s a person of faith and good moral character, I can trust them to make decisions even on issues where I don’t know where they stand.”

Jones notes that the Southern Baptist Convention for years issued materials calling Mormonism a cult. “There’s a long history of antipathy,” toward Mormons among evangelicals, Jones said, and “that’s certainly playing a role in the Deep South.”

Santorum, Jones says, has stances on social issues that line up more with rank-and-file evangelicals than with rank-and file Catholics.

In the Bible Belt, Santorum has won primaries in Tennessee, Missouri and Kansas, while Gingrich has won South Carolina and Georgia. Romney won the Virginia primary, but neither Santorum nor Gingrich was on the ballot there.

Still, Romney maintains a big lead among his competitors in terms of delegates.

Because Alabama's 47 delegates and Mississippi's 37 delegates will be awarded proportionally, Romney appeared to maintain his delegate lead and may add to it after more moderate Hawaii's 17 delegates are distributed. A CNN delegate estimate early Wednesday showed Romney with a 489-234 lead over Santorum, giving him a 255-delegate margin.

Mark DeMoss, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign helping with outreach to evangelicals, says he has been discouraging Republican voters from making too big a deal of the candidates' religious faith.

“A candidate's values are critically important, but there are Southern Baptists who don’t share my values or political views on many issues, and there are Mormons and Catholics and Jews who do,” said DeMoss, a Southern Baptist.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Christianity • Politics

soundoff (472 Responses)
  1. Dawgman

    Mitt is not connecting with the evangelicals in the south because they do not like Mormons. Values, programs...blah, blah, blah, has nothing to do with it. The only group they think less of are Muslims. Luckily for the Republicans, the majority of these evangelical voters think Obama is a Muslim so they would be forced to vote for Mitt in the general election.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  2. sbssue1

    Not one person believes absolutely everything his church preaches.; it is all interpreted by the preacher man. That's why folks change churches. They are all roads leading to the same place. You are absolutely correct, people who talk about the Mormons the most are those that know the least. I am Catholic and I think Santorum has a screw loose. Don't believe a word he says.........

    March 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      And perhaps those who claim to be Catholic are not so much if they want to pick and choose which teachings to follow.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • El Flaco

      We all pick and choose what we want to believe.

      March 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • dkinabq

      http://voices.yahoo.com/mitt-romneys-mormon-secrets-11070962.html?cat=75#comments

      I was a Catholic, never had to participate in scared ceremonies I couldn't talk about or be gutted like a fish if i did.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  3. vhalen

    This was a win for Romney in my book. Everyone knew the South would be his challenge, and he split the vote, and got his share. Add in Hawaii and American Somoa, Romney actually increased his lead. Talking heads were saying "What is wrong with Romney", let me ask, what is wrong with Santorum and Gingrich. These are the hardest states for Romney, and they both lost more ground. Not much more territory in the deep south left, not many more away games.

    If you add up all of Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul delegates, and throw in an extra 50...That is Romney. In otherwords Romney is 50 more than all the other delegates combined. No more SC, GA, MS, AL, they shot their load.

    A fun little math. Santorum who is in second place, needs 910 more delgats, there are only 1384 not assigned. Santorum would have to win every single remaining contest getting 65% of delegates to win this. He got nowhere near 65% in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and Somoa. He and Gingrich feel the media don't give them attention. Heck, they got further away from winning the nomination last night...and all I hear is Santorum, Santorum Santorum.

    Pundits say it continues. It does...and each day Santorum will get further away from the nomination. Soon the states start moving North and East.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  4. cmdvimes

    If you need a pastor/priest/rabbi/imam to tell you how to vote then you should be disqualified from voting. Politician who use religious doctrine as a governing platform should be excluded from office. If you want to be pastor then be a pastor and not a politician.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  5. M. Edward

    Romney is a big time out and out phony, how much more needs to be said; “Y’all have that fine sweet grits this morning?” Pleaseeeee, the man has no spine and will say anything he thinks the people he's talking to want to hear. How insulting! However, the most freighting thing is the paid people he has chosen for his staff. If he can't put together a group of high paid advisers, can you imagine who he would pick for a miserly paying government job? The man should be an embarrassment to anyone with an IQ over 65.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  6. Stuck in the Middle

    I'm suure Romney is all upset because he couldn't dumb down enouugh to get the inbred vote.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  7. Shane Ownbey

    CNN is so lousy at trying to spin this as a loss for MITT ROMNEY when in fact Mitt held up very welll in an area he was not expected to compete. His ability to WIN the day in delegates is really what has & will matter at the end of the day. The media is always trying to change the rules and put a thumb on the scale in order to line thier coffers.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  8. Rebecca

    I'm not quite sure how the Republicans intend to win the general election when they keep alienating the people they're going to need to vote for them. I understand they have to make it through the primary, but this is ridiculous.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  9. Sue

    Like most republicans who hold office, Romney will say anything and pander to any group he thinks could possibly vote for him. Romney's been running for President for about 14 years now...you think he'd finally figure out people don't want him and his own party can't stand him.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  10. Clancy6

    I would dearly like to see Santorum take the Republican nomination for the simple reason that he is patently unelectable. Whatever Mr. Obama's shortcomings, the reasonable centrists and moderates around the country will not suffer such a social conservative in the White House as Mr. Santorum.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  11. Snorkus

    Wow, religion makes people look really smart!

    March 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  12. Mr. Izz

    The south have spoken, and have loudly said... "we're bigots, we don't like Mormons and Muslims, we want our church and state separation to not be absolute, and we definitely don't want our kids to become snobs by going to college."

    Also, @El Flaco .... there isn't anything to be concerned about. No, he doesn't believe those things, and if someone is telling you that, then they are filling you up with extreme false information. Do some research on lds.org, or mormon.org, if you want facts. Or you can listen to all of the anti-LDS material, and believe what you want... the rest of America does.

    Also, the LDS Church uses its resources better than any Church in the world. They are some of the first to respond to major disasters, is the only Church not in debt, and is very sound financially. Sounds like something that would be good for the country. I guess the "south" speaks for the world though.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  13. Mike in Montana

    There is NO way, that former Governor Mitt Romney is going to win the race for the presidency or have it ALL his way, during the Republican Party convention. With his association with Bain Capital and Rush Limbaugh (against all women) and his membership in the LDS Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, that do NOT believe in the Trinity, it's going to be a hard fight to the convention, let alone the presidency. His friendship and support of Rush Limbaugh, is already beginning to hurt and the membership with the LDS Church and that Prophet Joseph Smith saw and talkd with God and Jesus Christ in the flesh, including those gold plates or tablets, which brought on The Book of Mormon, and a cult, is NOT going to fly in the bible belt or even here in the state of Montana. Besides being 'very rich', MItt Romney has said again, that he does have a problem with the middle-class, baby-bommers, senior citizens, veterans, disabled, AARP members, Social Security and benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and the poor, and homeless in America. Mitt Romney.., your flip-flop on positions and problems with the church, Rush Limbaugh, the middle-class in America, including baby-boomers and seniors, its gong to be a tough hard road to The White House. Good luck.. Mike in Montana

    March 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Mr. Izz

      If you believe in the "Trinity" then somehow logic has gone out the window. Three are separate, but one, but separate? Yet, not talked about in the Bible. Jesus prayed to himself? The visions of heaven had Jesus standing on the right hand side of himself? Do you not understand that the word "one" could mean unified, one in purpose, one in faith, not literally... "one?" The Holy Ghost came upon people, does that mean the Jesus came upon people? Do you not see how backwards these things are?

      If that's what Christianity is, I don't want to be a Christian. You are believing everything your pastor is telling you, and you aren't reading the book that you supposedly believe, and are definitely not understanding the material.

      "Led like sheep to the slaughter" comes to mind.

      I could very easily rip apart your pastor's teachings, as can many others. It isn't hard at all. So don't you dare go around judging people based on their religions. If you don't agree, then fine, don't agree. But if you're going to go around spreading false information about what the LDS Church does and does not believe, then you are the problem. Hate will continue, bigotry will get stronger, and America will be more torn apart.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • nairb247

      Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
      Martin Luther King, Jr.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Steve in Montana

      Mike, please stop making Montanans look so bigoted. I'm a proud Missoula native, and LDS. Missoula, as you know, is one of the most liberal cities in the state...if members of the Church were to be ostracized for their beliefs, this would be the place. In my experience, Montanans (even in its most oppositional culture) have by-and-large accepted those who believe in the restored gospel.

      Let's be objective, for a moment. Are you saying that Christians, who believe that Jesus was born of a virgin mother, turned water into wine, multiplied a few fishes to feed thousands, brought forth Lazarus from the tomb, walked on water, commanded the sea, took upon himself the punishment for the sins of all mankind, was crucified yet overcame death three days later to walk among his disciples showing them His resurrected body, and yet Christians cannot accept that God has worked wonders in our day by calling latter-day prophets who testify of the reality of Jesus? Is it so incomprehensible that the Lord would work in marvelous and miraculous ways today? If you cannot accept LDS teachings because they are "absurd," then how can you accept Christian teachings (which LDS teachings encompass)?

      March 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  14. nairb247

    Maybe you should learn more about the Mormon faith before posting those questions. No Mormon believes that only Mormons are going to heaven and all others are going to hell. Get the facts first.

    One of the biggest problems with evangelicals is that they think they know so much about the LDS faith when they really know nothing.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Observer

      LDS doctrine is kind of a moving target – a work in progress, apparently. I can see how Mitt Romney's candidacy would make Mormons want to seem inclusive just now.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Timothy

      Actually you can't get a Mormon to tell the truth.

      Mormon doctrines is fluid in that the public-release religion of Mormonism changes based on bad press.

      And the real issues are attempted to be buried under threats of bigotry.

      MORMONS waged a political war against the gays in an attempt to deny civil rights to 10 percent of the population – BIGOTRY, church orchestrated bigotry. Prophet-approved, but bigotry.

      Mormons becomes GODS – that is unless questioned, then deny, even though current publications of the cult show in Gospel Principles – Exalation Chapter – Mormons become GODS – not like a GOD, not Christ-like in actions, but BECOME GODS.

      Blacks denied priesthood was God's fault – Mormons don't know why God denied the priesthood to blacks, we don't know why God gave the blacks priesthood in 78, but we weep when we heard. RACISM.

      We could go on – but the point – Mormons Lie – Mountain Meadows – the Indians did it.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  15. Reality

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And the irony:

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  16. Willie James

    The biggest redneck state is still to come. The home of Rick Perry and Tom DeLay, Voter ID and sonograms. The most politically and socially backwards behemoth of 'em all: Texas.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • michael

      That's debatable. Most sociologists and political analysts would hold the antebellum strongholds of the Southeast – places like Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana – as the most socially conservative states in the Union. They're also among the poorest and the poorest educated. Texas wears a yee-haw persona on its sleeve, and it's a conservative, Christian-heavy territory, sure... but the southernmost heart of the old Confederacy takes the cake.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  17. HelloHowareyou

    Evangelicals and Born agains generally HATE Mormons with a passion. Many would just as soon vote for the devil himself as vote for a Mormon. Add that to the fact that Romney is a rich northerner, which they also hate, and you can see why he is having troubles. Another news website stated that this was a failure to connect. That is either extreme ignorance, or a knowingly false inflammatory statement. Romney can connect with some, but never with all people like that.

    And by the way, when you add the delegates that Romney got in the south with those in Hawaii, then you can see yet one more reason why he is leading this race.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  18. medianone

    Let your minds drift back to the Bush/Kerry election and the question asked by pollsters, "Who would you rather invite to a family BBQ, George Bush or John Kerry?" Romney's problem with the general electorate could be as simple as that!

    March 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  19. El Flaco

    I'm concerned about Romney's religious beliefs. Does he really believe that all non-Mormons will be going to hell? Will he govern for the benefit of the millions of Americans that he believes will go to hell or just for the benefit of Heaven-bound Mormons? What does he really think about abortion? Is abortion a sin if the parents are not Mormon? If the child is going to hell anyway, then what difference would it make if it goes straight to hell instead of consuming resources that could be better used by Mormons?

    Americans deserve these answers.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Timothy

      Romney, like all Mormons believe that MORMONS, married in the Mormon Temple, become GODS. Not a Christian tenet of faith, and this WE BECOME GODS (not LIKE a GOD, but BECOME A GOD) comes from their current Sunday School manual, Gospel Principles – Exaltation chapter; D&C 132, several Mormons prophets all citing the same belief – Mormons become GODS.

      Christians only have to come to terms with that to realize that isn't a Christ centered belief, and since the serpent first deceived Eve in the Garden, the serpent is still deceiving the earth with false doctrines, gospels, and principles.

      No Christian in good faith can cast a vote for a non-Christian who blasephemes the Christian faith by claiming Mormons are Christians and will become GODS.

      NoMormonInWhiteHouse blogspot com

      March 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • nairb247

      ElFalco – The answers are pretty simple. Mormons don't believe they are the only ones going to heaven and the sure don't believe that everyone aside from them is going to hell. Pretty simple.

      The problem is that so many people make up things about this faith that they don't understand what they really believe.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Russell

      I am a life long member and return missionary of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I understand that there are many misconceptions regarding the LDS church, and I am happy to help others understand what we truly believe. Mormon doctrine teaches that through Jesus Christ all who have faith in Christ will be saved. Those who go to what you might call hell, are only those who deny the Holy Ghost who bares witness of the Savior. There are 50,000 missionaries world wide to answer more questions, stop them on the street or invite them to your home, they would be more than happy to answer your questions.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • BigE

      Mormons don't believe in that non-morons are going to hell and they are against abortion. I'm not a Mormon but I do live in Utah. While the post above this is accurate it reeks of bigotry. Mormons are fine folks.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Jared

      El Flaco,

      The best place to learn what Mormons believe is mormon.org.

      Mormon's do not believe everyone is going to hell. In fact they believe that "hell" does not last forever and everyone who ever lived on earth will be judged according to their faith in Jesus Christ and how they demonstrated that faith. They believe that all children are innocent and when they die they are not going to hell, but are rather saved through the grace of Christ.

      Romney would not be focused on just helping Mormons like you are concerned. He has stated this publicly. The LDS Church also teaches that when you serve ALL your fellow men you also serve God.

      Mormonism isn't as scary as people like @Timothy like to portray it as. We believe that all men are equal before God and that God, like any loving father, desires to give them all that he has. If you really want to learn about it then don't turn to the haters. These people would want to tell me what I believe in and what the church teaches and 99% of the time it is misrepresented or false.

      March 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • GodPot

      "Mormons don't believe in that non-morons are going to hell "

      Thank goodness I guess I'll be safe... don't know about the morons though... I guess you could say they live in their own heII already, their little mental prisons they erect to keep out the bad men who don't think fire and lightning are divine expressions of an angry invisible bearded man in the sky...

      March 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Steve in Montana

      Timothy isn't presenting LDS doctrine in a true light. He wants to make you think that Mormons believe they will usurp God in the afterlife. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

      What has God promised to those that believe in Christ and overcome evil in this life? Let's look to the New Testament for some answers.

      Rev. 3:21

      To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

      If we are to sit with Jesus Christ in His throne, EVEN as He sits with God the Father in His throne, what does that make us in the afterlife?

      Another verse from 2 Cor. 3:18

      But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

      Again, the Bible itself is outlining the doctrine that men have the potential to have the same glory as the Lord's. How is this attained? By having the Spirit of the Lord change us. And how do we have the Spirit of the Lord? By living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Steve – "Nothing could be farther from the truth."

      That about wraps up all organized religions on the planet.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Holly

      Mormon.org will answer all your questions

      March 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  20. J.W

    Mitt Romney should have said he was Methodist or something then maybe after he was president if it did happen he could say haha im mormon.

    March 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.