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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. ObamaJoe

    have fun,,,,,,,,,,,,,,that's what life is about 😕

    March 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Toad

      And not the Hokey Pokey?

      March 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      I put my right hand in,
      I put my right hand out,
      In out, in out.
      shake it all about 🙂

      March 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  2. Josh C

    The most convoluted thing is that religion outweighs logic most times. Very sad that it happens

    March 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      ,,,,Usually so called logic comes from the brain-washing TV and internet,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  3. Kreslev

    Harvey Dent 2012!

    March 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      What's that Dent ???????????

      March 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  4. Josh C

    They say they don't base it off their faith That's a bunch of crock. Stupidity is King is seems

    March 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      Not bad,,,,,,,,,,,,even if it's wrong,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,as long as life lasts for ever,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they will finally know the truth,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  5. Jason in Hawaii

    According to the AP delegate count for March 13:

    Romney 43
    Santorum 36
    Gingrich 24

    Additionally, according to the AP, Romney won more delegates in Mississippi than Santorum, despite losing the popular vote there!

    March 14, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      why????????????,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,very strange,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  6. kman821

    The very existence of most southern states make a good argument that we have too many states in the US.

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

      Wrong,,,,,,,,,,,,,,not enough,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Toad

      kman821 is typical atheist filth.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • GodPot

      The only State that Southerners are in is denial. They have been since they lost the war and had to give up their "property" they used to work the fields.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  7. Holly

    Southern Baptists preach the evils of Mormonism from their church pulpits. They are a people of hate, exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. They are the ones who not so long ago were dressing up in white sheets and burning crosses in hatred and bigotry. Are we surprised they won't vote for a Mormon? Never mind that Mormons worship the same Jesus from the Bible they worship; and yet they still refuse to acknowledge Mormons as Christians, calling them a cult instead. These Southern Baptists are a close-minded, bigoted, people.

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

      "Southern Baptists preach the evils of Mormonism from their church pulpits" "These Southern Baptists are a close-minded, bigoted, people."

      Sounds a lot like a Mormon preaching the evils of Southern Baptists to me...

      It's hard to read more than two lines of any theists post before running into some blatant form of hypocrisy.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      What is a cult ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,sometimes it's hard to tell,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      and I do think there are good hearts in Mormon,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Valentina

      Southern Baptist like Gov. Huckabee as VP on Romney's ticket (and it's not inconceivable) will erase all these divisions and will unite our party – there is no doubt in my mind.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  8. Emmy Skaddittle

    Everyone Please vote for Santourm!

    Obama2012!

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

      Everyone Please vote for Paul!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      He is a good guy with a good heart,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Valentina

      Good one Emmy! A vote for Santorum is a guaranteed win for Obama! Not going to happen – our nominee will be Romney, the one that Obama team fears the most and considers him the biggest threat.

      Romney 2012 and beyond!

      March 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      I don't think Romney can stand the 1st round without Michael Bachmann,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  9. Adam

    The differences between sects:

    EVANGELICALS SAY: "I believe I possess the most perfect book ever written. It is the revealed word of the Creator of the Universe. I acknowledge that this Creator has revealed works before, yet I know that my version is ultimate, and I know it is the authentic product of the Supernatural Agent who acts upon this world, because the text asserts that this is so. Any who subscribe to the previous iterations of the Word of God, yet do not accept the veracity of my text, are doomed to ignorance."

    MORMONS SAY: "I believe I possess the most perfect book ever written. It is the revealed word of the Creator of the Universe. I acknowledge that this Creator has revealed works before, yet I know that my version is ultimate, and I know it is the authentic product of the Supernatural Agent who acts upon this world, because the text asserts that this is so. Any who subscribe to the previous iterations of the Word of God, yet do not accept the veracity of my text, are doomed to ignorance."

    March 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      ?????????????????

      March 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Adam

      "We" are fighting over the best version of a sh*77y book.

      Jews are satisfied with 1.0
      Christians need 1.1 to get by
      Mormons swear by 1.2

      March 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      what are you talking about 😕

      March 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Adam

      I am talking about the formative differences in what religions believe in, and why an evangelical would rather vote for the guy who praises a guy in a big hat but uses the same book, than the guy who–while in every other aspect is unobjectionable–uses the same book but with a new afterward.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  10. Paul

    The GOP race is a godsend for Obama. The reality is 40% of the electorate is independent, 31% is democratic, and only 29% is republican. Due to the extremism of the GOP, Romney has had to appeal to the crazy religous right to get primary delegates. But these loonies are not representative of the american populace at large. Come election time in November, no democrats and very few independents are going to vote for Romney because he has been forced to endorse many of the far right's nutty social views. Landslide win for Obama.

    March 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      If Michael have chance to help him,,,,,,,,,,,,he may get more from GOPs and independents,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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

      Obama will beat Romney, but would have even more fun beating Santorum.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Valentina

      Not so fast TheAsianAtheist! Didn't you get Mr. Jim Messina's (Obama's campaign manager) plea for donation in which he admits that "If the general election were held today, President Obama would lose to Mitt Romney"? Obama's poll numbers are tanking on economic issues. Economy remains #1 issue on the minds of the voters – "It's the economy stupid!" Romney will defeat Obama in head-to-head in November.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Toad

      Actually, Valentina, it's going to be about the dog. A wealthy, privileged, out-of-touch mistreater of animals will never be president.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  11. ObamaJoe

    Hellloooo,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,anybody home ????????????????????????????

    March 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  12. Luke

    Spend a little time researching the Mormon church, you will be amazed at what Mormonism is about. They have a different view of Christianity.

    March 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • ObamaJoe

      they are not bad guys ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      March 14, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  13. ObamaJoe

    God bless America,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    God bless President Obama,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    March 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  14. ObamaJoe

    Red People prefer Muslim Obama than Mormon Mitt:)

    March 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  15. ObamaJoe

    Mitt,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you know if you have Michael you will gain some votes from Bible Belt,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    Only Michael can unite GOP and bring christian and Mormon together,,,,,,,,,,,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ==============Mark my words,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,==================

    March 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  16. James

    Religion matters to the bigot minded.. And unfortunately America still has a fair amount of religious Bigots. It's simple as this, Rick Santorum appeals to the less educated, extremely conservative and more bigot minded segment of rural America, which is largely dominated by Born again evangelicals, who as the article points out have a misguided view that that Mormons aren't Christian, and in their misguided bigotry seem to be voting against Romney based upon their religion rather than for a good candidate who can win the general election. Whereas Romney appears to appeal to a wider audience, and notably the older, more educated, more moderate and less bigot minded segment of America that lives in metropolitan areas.

    It's time for Rick and Newt to call it quits.. for the health and well being of our country. If they and their Evangelical groupies really care about their values and want someone who will beat Obama this fall, they need to get a grip and reality check.. The candidate who will win the general election is one who will appeal to Most of America, and Most of a America is NOT a far right evangelical bigots. When the demographics of who is voting for Santorum, it's clear it's mainly the Far right anti-Mormons evangelical Born Again, who represent a large voting bloc in the southern Bible belt and Midwest.. As we have seen he wins in Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, his strength is not in the cities but with rural famers.. Whereas Mitt wins primarily in just about everywhere else, New England, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, the West, North West, and the islands of the Sea. It's also notable that areas where Mitt is strong, his margin over Santorum is huge, but the areas where Santorum is strong, the margin over Romney is not so huge, and often very slim, indicating Romney has more appeal to the Santorum base than Santorum has in the rest of the country, and this is being reflected in the delegate count, where Romney leads over Santorum substantially. So if Rick is honest with his rhetorical speeches against Obama he needs to get out of the way now.. He really has no practical chance of being President at this time. In a general election Romney has far more general appeal. Consider the areas where Santorum wins.. the far right, born again Evangelicals will generally vote for the Republican candidate, who ever that may be.. As it tends to follow that rural areas vote Republican.. Yet, the moderate voters in the cities are not so much.. I consider myself a moderate republican and I might vote for a democrat candidate if I thought they were more moderate than the Republican alternative. In that case I am voting for moderation over extremism. Santorum represents extremism, Romney represents more a more moderate Republican alternative. And just as moderate republicans might vote for a Moderate democrat, moderate democrats might also vote for a Moderate Republican.. It is here that Romney shines.. He appeals better to those moderates in the Metro areas, which typically vote democrat in the general election.. Santorum doesn't appeal to that group at all.. So notwithstanding that it's hard to see how he would win the Republican Nomination, it's even harder to see how he would win the general election if he were nominated.. Therefore a vote for Santorum at this time is a vote for Obama

    March 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • J.W

      But the problem for Mitt is that he is winning in a lot of states that Obama will win in the general election.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Valentina

      Excellent post James! There is no question that if Santorum were to be the GOP nominee he would lose to Obama in a landslide. If you look at the states that Santorum is winning – those are all safe red states for Republican that will not be in play in November. Romney runs strong with the independents and they decide the elections in the tossup states.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Martha

      Guess Romney's kool-aid is as good as Obama's for you. And I find it very offensive that you call Christians bigots. Maybe YOU need to study the Bible a little more and turn to God. Our country was founded by Christian men on Christian values. It's people like you that are "moderate" that are sending our country to hell with no morals or conscience.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Kreslev

      JW
      That may be true; however, any Republic state will vote Republican no matter who is running. The South will be Red even if the candidate is a block of wood. Unfortunately this is the case in a lot of places for both parties. Being Red or Blue is more important than the issues.

      Block of Wood 2012!

      March 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • dionysusBeer

      @Martha- Bite me. You are what's wrong with this country: intolerant, ignorant, hateful, and extremist. Moderates are the reason you have any rights at all, otherwise you'd be under the theocratic rule of some sect you don't agree with. Moderates ensure that everyone can believe what they want in peace, and that includes whichever of the 38,000+ denominations of Christianity you happen to follow.

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

      Good point Kreslev. Maybe it will be up to the swing states as it is many times.

      March 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  17. John_Dunkel

    RON PAUL 2012

    March 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  18. Jake

    Alabama and Mississippi: the most unhealthy region (e.g., the most obese, the most with cardiovascular diseases and etc.), the highest illiteracy rate, the highest teenage pregnancy rates, the most cities ranking in the top 25 most crimes, the most likely to regect scientific facts, the least taxed, the least to be unionized thus the highest proportion of the population in poverty...and of course, the most religious.... a perfect place for conservatives to foster support from extremists...just like campaigning in a third-world country. Same mentality. I feel sorry for progressives down there. You know who fundamentalists and extremist everywhere in the world always blame for all their regions'/country's problems and eventually jail or prohibit? "Intellectuals", also known here as "liberals", that's who. Just ask China, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea...and so on and so on. Conservatives around the world pretty much think alike...or rather not think but like Santorum just speak from the heart...even if it's stupid.

    March 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Martha

      And you got your facts from where?? You must be a damn Yankee. And you are not capable of thinking on your own evidently. Too much of that liberal kool-aid flowing in your direction. And that would account for you not having any heart either. The Conservatives are the ONLY ones that do think. They think about their fellow man, and their country so therefore they DO speak from their heart. But it's God that fills our brains. Not the freeloading, no moral liberal traitors that are trying to take over our country.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • gerdbaby

      @Martha, You then, must be a REDNECK! For all of your moral spewing, you have no problem calling other people names. So, having said that, take your stupid, uneducated, illiterate, fat, trailor trash self to church and soak your head.

      March 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  19. Johnson

    Romney sings to a different Bible than most of the country. He is a fake and folks know it.

    March 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Bob

      The other religious folks in the other cults are just following a different set of fictions.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  20. Holly

    The exit polls show Romney has good support among "EDUCATED" people in the deep south. It's the uneducated, ignorant folks he's not reaching. Just like in 2008 the uneducated poor are looking for a savior. Obama was in in '08 and they think Santorum is it in '12. They just don't get it.

    March 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Jackie

      We definitely have more than our share of ignorants here in the Florida panhandle.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Facepalm28

      Nice try on the Obama thing...except those same exit polls from '08 clearly showed that Obama did far better than McCain with the more educated voters. The more educated voters almost always break Democrat in general elections (gee, why could that be?). The farther right you go on the political spectrum, the less educated the supporters get.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • J.W

      I have lived most of my life in the Midwest, where none are ignorant.

      March 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Martha

      No, you have that backwards. It's the INTELLIGENT ones in the south that he is not reaching because they have better sense than to fall for another Obama. It's YOU that is unintelligent because you keep drinking the freeloading, non-moral kool-aid being handed out. Go back and bury your head in the sand. It becomes you.

      March 14, 2012 at 2:10 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.