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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. Keith

    Hey Mitt, if you want a voting block that will accept your being a Mormon, try becoming a Democrat.

    March 14, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  2. J.W

    I think we should just forget about this election and just make Obama president again

    March 14, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  3. me

    The bible belt is their own kind of embarrassing, nutty people...I wouldn't be too upset if I were Romney. I wouldn't have even bothered doing what he did to try to win them over.

    March 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • MARK LONGHURST

      YUP religion is a far better DIE-T except there is no religion that does not have its hands dripping in blood

      March 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • just sayin

      Prayer changes things
      Proven

      March 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • just sayin

      For hands really dripping with blood consider the atheist leaders in the last 100 years who have murdered millions each.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • raggmopp

      @justsayin – you mean like the Nazis and pope pius XII and their involvement in the holocast? And you do remember that Hitler was a catholic? And you will want to look up the Concordat of 1933 when Hitler made his speech to the catholics about injecting religion into education.

      How about Ireland. The orange vs green – a religious war between protestants and catholics How long was that religious conflict. Who was atheist there?

      What atheist leader are you referring to? A catholic leader was responsible for the murders of millions of innocent people. The greatest loss of life in a 20th century conflict is directly attributed to catholics.

      March 14, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Religion starts wars

      When all else fails, try the land of make believe. Say a prayer and all your dreams will come true. Nothing is impossible in the land of make believe.

      March 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  5. Jesucrisco

    Romney can't win the Bible belt because he's carrying the book of Mormon.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  6. Rudedog

    I will have to agree Romney has the best chance of winning the W H for the repubs but they don't want a centrist, they want a religiofascist. There will be a lsndslide against Ayatolla Santorum as indies decide the repubs have gone too far right.

    March 14, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  7. twh

    No surprise Ron Paul has done poorly in the south. He's anti-war, civil liberties, etc. People in the south don't really seem to understand that sort of stuff.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  8. Mitt Romneys stage makeup is made from people!!!!

    It's......PEOPLE!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHHHH!!!

    March 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  9. Harry Baxter

    I guess that the "cheezy grits" didn't agree with him. Maybe if he washed it down with a $500 fine wine?

    March 14, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  10. Kooky Kolob

    Maybe he's struggling in the bible belt becuase he believe's in a mythical planet, that Jesus is the spirit brother of satan, and his church's founder married more women (some already married themselves) than most arab shieks.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Stu

      Um, time for you to get your facts straight. Stop believing everything your pastors tell you and go gain an understanding for yourself. The same old slander about "magic underwear" and planet kolob get real old. Seriously, is that the best you've got?

      March 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Doug

      Not sure what you're talking about, but I'm sure whatever it is doesn't relate to the economy or running a country. Romney's a Harvard grad and has only been married once. Probably has contributed more to society than you despite the beliefs you attribute to him as some kind of character attack. And on the subject of wives, the deep south apparently likes candidates with lots of wives. Just look at their voting history with Gingrich.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Timothy

      Well, if you want wacky proof on Mormons, from their own church website, their own cult produced manual

      Gospel Principles – Exaltation Chapter – Mormons can become Gods if they are faithful, temple married Mormons.

      Can't deny it when proof is in the pudding, the wording ISN"T to be LIKE God, but TO BECOME GOD.

      Not Christian at all – blasphemy – Eve was the first to be deceived by the serpent, but the Mormons worship the serpent.

      Christians do not believe in becoming GODs, Romney, as a Stake President, Bishop, knows of this doctrine, and as a temple-worthy Mormon believes he will be GOD in the afterlife.

      NoMormonInWhiteHouse blogspot com

      March 14, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Robert

      Romney is by far the best qualified candidate. He is not some religious nut.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  11. JT

    I just wished you Christian nutbags would care about the economy and other important issues rather than who will promote your invisible nonexistent sky daddy the most.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • drew

      Add to that: a complete hate and disregard for laws, outsiders, any religion outside of Baptist,. They are the most provincial, two faced, double talking/dealing people who are just plain disagreable on every level..Any one who would vote for Slimbaugh and Sanctimoron, must ride the same train willingly. Pathetic and really scary.

      March 14, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  12. Grown-up Adult

    Anyone with a brain struggles in the bible belt and then GETS OUT!!!!!

    March 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  13. ropeadope

    Tweedledum and Tweedledee
    Agreed to have a battle;
    For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
    Had spoiled his nice new rattle. Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
    As black as a tar-barrel; Which frightened both the heroes so,
    They quite forgot their quarrel.

    The black crow, of course, is Obama! 🙂

    March 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  14. ropeadope

    The old adage "it's Dweedle-dee vs. Dweedle-dum and Dweedle-dim" has never been more true!

    March 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  15. raggmopp

    In the USA we elect our leaders, and no supernatural beings are supposed to be used as an excuse for undemocratic activities.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  16. Doug

    Richard Land is not truthful in his statement that evangelical opposition is not tied to religion. He says if only Romney was "more Mormon" he would have more evangelical supporters. Any casual observer knows that evangelicals have historically slandered Mormonism over their pulpits and in public not because of shared social values, but because of differing religious beliefs. To have Mr. Land backpeddle and state that Romney's religion is not the issue is an attempt to whitewash his church's active efforts to blacken Mormonism's eye in an attempt to secure their own congregations.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  17. Robert

    It's really unfortunate that voters in the South--and Evangelical voters in particular--continue to get their ideas about Mormons from gossip and hearsay. They feed off each other, perpetuating myths and rumors without ever knowing the truth. Time to honestly investigate what this faith actually believes, and get the straight scoop from the people themselves.

    March 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • JT

      Actually, most evangelical bible belters get most of their info from their pastor who also tells them how to vote.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Mortalc01l

      ANYONE that believes in invisible sky daddies and that the Earth is only 4000 years old, will believe pretty much anything they are told; they don't understand the difference between belief, opinion and fact. Mormons, Evangelicals, Muslims... all the same..

      March 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • joanne

      Yes!!!

      March 15, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • joanne

      Sorry..I meant Yes! to learning more about the Mormons from actual Mormons!! Missionaries and mormon. org, etc. can change your life for the ever so much better. Why do you mormons have a reputation for being happy and having strong families? It's because they are, and they do!!

      March 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  18. SaintM

    Mitt stumbles no matter what he does or says, or where he goes. Not much on people skills. At least President Obama can comfortably talk to any demographic and they listen to him–even if they disagree with him. Mitt would just be a dictator. Just imagining Romney's State of the Union addresses makes my skin crawl. America, you can do better than this fool – vote President Obama in for a second term.

    Obama 2.0, 2012

    March 14, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Robert

      WHY would we want to vote for a president that has racked up MORE national debt than all 43 presidents before him combined??? We're still paying off things that Kennedy racked up back in the 60s! And you want to enslave our great-great grandchildren 50 years from now!!!!!

      March 14, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • raggmopp

      @Robt – At the end of WWI the country's debt was approx 120% of GDP – in today's dollars that is some $40 trillion. We have been in much worse shape than we are in now. What you said is patently untrue.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • raggmopp

      That's WWII.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Craig

      @robert

      Do use all a favor and do a little bit of research before posting complete fabrications. If you bother to actually learn the FACTS about the debt, you'll discover the guy you should be pointing towards is named Bush! That's a fact!

      March 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • sam

      Robert only understands what he hears on the Fox network.

      March 14, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  19. perrrob

    The stupidity of these people in the southern states is astounding. The country is falling apart fiscally yet these mental midgets are more concerned about which invisible Sky Daddy has the bigger weiner?

    They're arguing about who is the most conservative as if this was a quality ... conservatism is a sign that you can't evolve with the times. Spend more on education and less on tanks.

    March 14, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  20. W.G.

    You can wash it up or perfume it up , or brush it up but the truth is , real Bible believing
    Christians do not believe that mormons are Christians .

    March 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Valentina

      I am a real Bible believing Christian and it doesn't make a difference for me if Romney is a Christian or not. I am voting for the most qualified individual to be the President of our great US of A – and that individual is definitely Romney, hands down.

      March 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Wayne

      O come on, Valentina. Mitt has no clue how to take care of a dog. How can he run a country?

      March 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Robert

      The sad thing is that probably less than 1% of Evangelicals even know what Mormons honestly believe. There are 10 times more references to Christ in the Book of Mormon than in the entire New Testiment. But good luck getting puffed-up prideful people to open their eyes, or unstiffen their necks, or unstop their ears. Heaven forbid they might learn something.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Valentina

      @ Wayne – that's a non-issue in general election. How can Romney run a country? Well, for starters he"s already proven to be a strong leader when he saved the Olympics from the brink of total collapse, he was a successful businessman – a CEO of a very large and very successful company, and an accomplished governor of the state. And what was Obama's record of success before he was elected President about four years ago? Oh yeah, a community organizer. It will all be about the economy come November 2012 my friend.

      March 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yup, it will, Val, honey. And the economy is improving. Stocks are up, jobs are increasing. Why, just today I heard that there's been an increase in the number of cosmetic surgeries being done-a sign that people are feeling more confident about the economy and are willing to spend some money on things they want, not just things they need.

      Obama is likely to win.

      March 14, 2012 at 9:53 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.