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. Terry

    The Mormons need to get more missionaries on the street. Knock on those doors, convert those Christians. Get out the vote: Mormon Belief is the True Belief.

    March 15, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Sorry but...


      March 15, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • momoya

      yeah, I used to think my belief was right and all others were wrong, too..

      March 15, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  2. nouk

    Romney's problem is not confined to the Bible Belt. Voters mostly know that he stands only for his ambition. He has, as Geroge Will capably called them, "flexible convictions". Republicans will field a weak candidate this year, whichever wins the nomination.

    March 15, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  3. Juan in El Paso

    I love when liberals make negative comments about the Republican candidates! Why! Because your opinion doesn't matter one bit. You've been told by the liberal media to vote for Obama and that is what your going to do. Why even bother following the campaign? Whatever happens doesn't change your vote, so it is a fruitless effort, but that is what liberalism is.

    March 15, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'Juan in El Paso" contains instances of the the ad hominem and circu-mstantial ad hominem fallacies as well as a non sequitur argument.

      Juan may also benefit from study of the proper usage of "your" vs. "you're".


      March 15, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Opinions are important if there is some sound logic and reasoning behind them. Let's look at some of Mitts beliefs and see if that is what is desirable in a president of the US.

      Mormon men believe they will be a god of their own planet,

      Mormons believe that native Americans Are Jews that sailed westward from the middle east; contrary to all genetic, linguistic and archeological evidence.

      Polynesians are Jews who subsequently sailed westward from the Americas,

      The garden of Eden was in Missouri. So did the Jews sail east to the middle east then sail west to the Americas?,

      Believes in posthumous baptism,

      And of course that god resides on a planet near a star called kolob.

      Wear the "magic undergarment" to protect them from the outside world,

      Is this the kind of reasoning, logic, and scientific thinking for a president of the US?

      March 15, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Bill McElhiney

      It's not that people are in love with Obama it's that Romney is so "fake," and out of touch (Geez, the things that come out of this guys mouth!). So, for some people Obama may not be ideal, but he's a hell-of-lot-better than Romney. And people can see that for themselves, they don't need to be told by the media.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Byron Tilly


      I agree with your first statement regarding the importance of opinion when logic and reason are behind them. However, it's wrong to only look at a list of Mormon beliefs when determining what is desirable in a president of the U.S. Below I've listed some counters to your list and question why you only single out Mormonism.

      "Mormon men believe they will be a god of their own planet."
      Christians (men and women) believe they will live for an eternity in a beautiful, magical, perfect kingdom in the sky.

      "Mormons believe that native Americans Are Jews that sailed westward from the middle east; contrary to all genetic, linguistic and archeological evidence."
      Christianity professes that the world – and by extension humanity – is approximately 6,000 years old contrary to all genetic information learned from DNA analysis, linguistics, paleontological, archeological, and geological evidence.

      "Polynesians are Jews who subsequently sailed westward from the Americas."
      Israelites (Jews) were led out of Egypt by a man that, with the power of his God, parted the Red Sea, was protected by a pillar of fire when Pharaoh tried to reclaim them. Then, they wandered the desert for 40 years eating mana collected from the ground each night along with the morning dew.

      "The garden of Eden was in Missouri. So did the Jews sail east to the middle east then sail west to the Americas?"
      Christians believe that the actual Garden of Eden was located in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) despite "The Book of Genesis" not specifically stating a physical geographic location. It is unclear if the places mentioned in Genesis correspond to modern day areas that are similarly named.

      "Believes in posthumous baptism."
      Some Christians, like Quakers, do not believe in baptism as being necessary. Furthermore, in the Bible Paul spoke of baptism for the dead; there is significant argument on whether he was for or against it since depending on how one reads the context, it could go either way.

      "And of course that god resides on a planet near a star called kolob."
      "Christians believe that God is eternal and omnipresent but resides in Heaven. The bible also mentions three types of heaven; interpretations vary from the first heaven being earth, the second being the moon and stars, and the third being the sun. Currently, it is standard to think of a single Heaven where God sits on a throne with Jesus at his right hand.

      "Wear the "magic undergarment" to protect them from the outside world."
      "Some Christians wear garments as a sign of respect for God: nuns wear habits, some women only wear dresses, people wear their "Sunday best, Jews wear Yarmulkes, and Muslims use prayer rugs. Having artifacts, whether worn or not, is common to many religions, even Christianity.

      "Is this the kind of reasoning, logic, and scientific thinking for a president of the US?"
      Reasoning, logic, and scientific thinking isn't only corrupted by Mormons. Many denominations of Christianity forgo those three principles in favor of their faith.

      Our national discussion should not be about what religion someone is because it should have no bearing on their qualifications for the highest office in our nation. Unfortunately, believing that religion will be removed as a political tool is as much a fairytale fantasy as some other beliefs.

      March 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  4. Godless

    Given the choice between Romney and Santorum, I'll take the, uh, seasick crocodile!

    March 15, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Nice comment. Witty illustration of choices in the Greed Over People primaries!

      March 15, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  5. Jt_flyer

    In November the so called bible-belt will be much less relevant. Get to the general election and you'll be fine Mr. Romney. Court the ultra concervatives and you won't have a chance with educated voters. Let Santorum take his low road. It's pay now or later.

    March 15, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • conoclast

      Oh? There are 'educated voters' somewhere in the republican ranks? Maybe just not in the Bible-belt South, hmm? Stumble on, Mitt - by election time you'll be too broke and ethically compromised to even find your way home!

      March 15, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  6. Bob in Texas

    If either Santorum or Gingrich had not been in the race, the other would have received 60%+. Southerners can see through a phony like Romney and see him for what he is, a patronizing, psychopathic, bully who will use his personal wealth to spread lies intended to demean and humiliate his opponents.

    Most of the rest of the country also sees this in Romney, but they haven't been participating in the Republican primaries. In fact, when you look at the low voter turnouts for Republicans nationally, it's pretty clear the entire field is pretty weak. None of these bozo's has what it takes to beat Obama, so Republicans and independents are staying away in droves.

    We have the Citizens United decision to thank for much of this. All of the candidates, Romney in particular, have effectively destroyed each other with their negative campaigning. Republicans did the "Eagle Rock" when the CU decision came down. They should have been more careful about what they wished for.

    March 15, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • momoya

      Maybe, but all those same southerners will rush out to the polls to vote for Romney if he wins the nomination, so all their high-and-mighty morals that keep them from voting for him now won't really matter at all, will they?.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  7. raggmopp

    All those so called 'evangelicals' and bible belt folks cannot understand how they are insulting God.

    We humans have been gifted with the ability to think, to decide, to reason – to be rational. We have the innate characteristic of curiosity that has lead to many discoveries for all of man kind, both good and bad.

    When people are choosing to be subserviant, to ignore science and to ridicule any other belief system that differs from their own, they are being irrational. That is the direct opposite of what God has gifted us with.

    In this political circus many people are more concerned about maintaining their beliefs and choose ignorance. These same people discount and prevent any opportunity man kind has to advance itself.

    In short, they act in an irrational manner. Being subserviant is irrational. Ignoring our gifts is irrational. This is insulting God – these people are ignoring our gifts from God.

    In the political realm, same thing. The bible belt chooses to only endorse the candidate of their same belief system and ignore all other candidates and all other ideas.

    This is insulting God. Use your gifts – there is no God's will. You are in charge of your own destiny.

    March 15, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Dennis

      Raggmopp, the only correct thing you said was "we choose our own destiny" and that is by the choices we make or don't make. Then you show your liberal ignornace by saying we in the south are "more concerned about maintaining our beliefs"...well what an enlightening remark! Yes! here in the south we stand up for what we BELIEVE IN unlike you liberals who don't know what you believe. And please stop trying to use God to prove your point until you CHOOSE to BELIEVE in him! Your post is a good example of how liberals think or don't think...God's word is clear "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" and when you know God he will allow you to see beyond the lies and deceptions (the truth shall make you free) and his wisdom will take you beyond your own thinking. You say you can think for your own self...that is your problem, God does not have any room in your confused mind so you keep choosing bad choices and therefore your BELIEF or lack of... is insulting to God.

      March 15, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • raggmopp

      Dennis – You just made my point. You are not thinking for yourself, you "seek guidance" from God on how to think.
      Again, God gifted us with the ability to think. Don't be asking Him what to think, that is why we were gifted with the abilities to think on our own. God does not want to think for us. God gifted us with the ability to think on our own and be rational beings.

      Having faith does not mean ignoring those who think differently.

      If God wanted all of us to think the same and believe the same, then we would all be cast in the same mold. But we aren't, we are all of God's children, jewish, buddist, islamic, christian, ...

      Yes, you are more concerned about maintaining your own beliefs that you choose ignorance.
      You are insulting God.

      And what a pathetic little man you are, calling anybody you disagree with a liberal. Is that the best you got?

      March 15, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • ElmerGantry


      If "God's word is clear", then why is there a multïtude of different absolute truths?

      March 15, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • ElmerGantry


      BËTCHA you want your version of the absolute truth to be the universal standard.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • momoya

      There's no proof for any god and so all god-beliefs come down to faith which equalizes the playing field.. Each god is as fit to be believed as the next and as powerless to show himself more capable than the others.. It's really just the arrogance of the ego of the believer.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 15, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • Gaunt

      Prayer changes nothing.

      1 pair of hands holding tools can accomplish more than 100,000 pairs of hands praying.

      March 15, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Sue

      Great post, Gaunt. Love that closing line.

      March 15, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Jesus

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!!~ .....

      March 15, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  9. blursd

    And Santorum "struggles" in most states where the average voter has an IQ over 90 ...

    What's your point ...?!?

    March 15, 2012 at 3:58 am |
  10. W.G.

    You can dress it up , or wash it up , you can shave its _utt and make it walk backwards but the reason
    Romney is having a hard time in the south is because Bible believing Christians do not believe that Mormons
    are real Christians .

    March 15, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • Dave

      People can believe what they want to believe. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

      If you want to understand what Mormons believe about Christ and Christianity read the following:



      Just because you say something doesn't make it true.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  11. Mad Cow

    Bleed the Beast, Mitty!

    March 15, 2012 at 2:04 am |
  12. Alfred the Great

    They just don't like Mormons in the South.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • Randi

      And this is the southern Christian? What happened to "love your neighbor"?

      March 15, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Dave

      I have to give it to you – at least you are honest about being a bigot.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  13. zip

    Google "Planet Kolob" You'll see why nobody should vote for a Mormon.

    March 15, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Randi

      What does your faith say about the time before time and the time after the end? That you would scoff at another's faith shows very little kindness.

      March 15, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • niels


      March 15, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Not only that but,

      Mormon men believe they will be a god of their own planet,

      Mormons believe that native Americans Are Jews that sailed westward from the middle east; contrary to all genetic, linguistic and archeological evidence.

      Polynesians are Jews who subsequently sailed westward from the Americas,

      The garden of Eden was in Missouri. So did the Jews sail east to the middle east then sail west to the Americas?,

      Believes in posthumous baptism,

      And of course that god resides on a planet near a star called kolob.

      Wear the "magic undergarment" to protect them from the outside world,

      Is this the kind of reasoning, logic, and scientific thinking for a president of the US?

      March 15, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  14. Reality

    Only for the newbies:------>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    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 15, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  15. Lakeisha Jackson

    It's certainly true that a lot of deep-South conservatives don't want to vote for a Mormon. But it's going to be an entirely different story when that Mormon is running against a candidate whom they consider (rightly or wrongly) to be a socialist Muslim.

    March 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
    • LNV

      And what a pity for our democracy when that number of people votes from an ignorant platform if that is what they are afraid of. Jews, Christians, Muslims all pray to the same god~ that of Abraham. Religion should not matter~ what matters is how a person has served their country in their voting records, etc. And as far as socialism goes, I bet there are millions of those evangelicals who wallow in it every day: public schools, state highways, medicare, medicaid, libraries. Community colleges, state parks, the socialist list goes on and on. We are a sorry, sorry nation when the word socialism can blind people to the reality of their worlds. As a Cold War survivor and a vet, it makes me sick. There are so many wonderful things built on socialism in this country and I am proud of it. Like Scandinavia~ only the problem here is that the 1% want to privatize everything. And that will be the day we fail as a nation. I like a good amount of socialism mixed in with the private world. THINK PEOPLE~ the Right Wing has got you by your tails using that word to scare you from THINKING CRITICALLY ~ You must think critically and to vote that way. BHO 2012 Elizabeth Warren 2016 2024.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:52 am |
    • Jared

      I think you are wrong about the south. I'm a Christian Conservative and I would have gladly voted for Huntsman if given then opportunity. For one reason or another he just never got traction and was the only adult in the race.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  16. Joseph

    Being Mormon myself, I have been discriminated against pretty much my whole life. When I see evangelical Christians telling Mormons that we are cultists is wrong, because we are no less Christians than they are. The only thing that these pasteurs are afraid of is the fact that mot only that we don't believe that people of other different faiths are going to hell for not believing in Jesus Christ, but we don't believe that we are a fallen people. What does that mean? The sins of the father are not the sins of the sons and daughters. You are your own person, and you make your own choices. You are not born a sinner, and nor are you going to hell for having contrary beliefs to Jesus and Judaism. How wrong is it to believe that people are not born evil miscreants looking to do harm to all without god in their life? It isn't. Aethists have just as much of a right in heaven as any Christian. Muslims have just as much of a right in heaven as Christians. Budists have just as much of a right in heaven as Christians. All faiths and non faiths are equals in the sight of God, and are not judged by there "Santa Claus-esque" views on Jesus. I have had enough of so-called christians who cannot live and let live people that don't share their opinions. Just because certain people may or may not believe in Jesus doesn't make them any less loved by God. Period

    March 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • peter

      nicely put and someone's religious views certainly shouldn't influence their view on voting for someone in a democracy. if this country was a theocracy then religion can have its influence on representatives in office but we are not that so lets cut that out of politics.

      March 15, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • Randi

      You do not have the same "Mormon" faith as the Mormons I know.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • Alfred the Great

      Now how in the world does one explain the concept of Heaven to someone who does not believe in Heaven? Me thinks the magic underwear is a size too small!

      March 15, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • T.I.N.G.

      At least God has talked to the Mormons somewhat recently. The Christians haven't heard from him in almost 2,000 years.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  17. jtarver

    What is up with CNN wishing Romney was having a problem? Romney won one more delegate than Santorum.

    March 14, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Dave

      Yeah, CNN continues to bash Romney because they know he is the best candidate to defeat Obama. When Romney wins, they say he struggled. When Santorum wins with 2% more in votes, it was a landslide. Give me a break!

      March 15, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  18. Lenny Pincus

    It is difficult to appeal to religious fanatics who are poorly educated. Of course, given his inability to articulate a cogent thought even a dummy can understand (and not knowing Sweet Home Alabama is by Lynyrd Skynyrd), its not surprising the Mitt the lover of certain tree heights can't gain any traction.

    March 14, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Randi

      So that is your idea of a test for presidency - to know the singer of songs?

      March 15, 2012 at 1:11 am |
  19. MissE

    Despite Mitt's sudden Appalachian accent and rhapsody over cheesy grits, this is not his base. He should accept that fact and get moving. I'm voting for President Obama no matter what, but I want a campaign that will improve the level of debate over IMPORTANT issues (debt, jobs, health care, getting our troops home.) Much as Mitt scares me as a potential President, he's the only Republican candidate who doesn't also come off sounding like he missed 7th and 10th grade (or, in Santorum's case, ANY level of secular education.) Mitt's blatant pandering to the Bible Belt not only diminishes him as a public figure, it reinforces his image as a chameleon of expedience who puts the changeability of most of Washington to shame. I'd rather watch the President debate a candidate than a robot programmed by his handlers to match the time zone.

    Then again, maybe it doesn't matter; if there's any sanity, Mitt lost half the country when he stated that he'd like to get rid of Planned Parenthood. But never fear; he probably picked up some votes from that limited demographic that will enjoy watching its 16-year old daughters struggling to be moms and finish high school at the same time. Or perhaps those folks too poor to afford insurance who will enjoy watching their mothers, wives and daughters die of breast cancer that could have been caught early by a government-subsidized mammogram. Way to go, Mitt; if God exists, I'm sure he'll be proud that you stopped poor women from getting routine gynecological exams and prenatal care along with abortions.

    March 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • nairb247

      Please explain to me if there are not cuts made in certain areas how we can balance the budget and start digging out of the 16 trillion of debt we are in (by the way it has more than doubled since Obama has been in office).

      Planned Parenthood won't go away, but the government can't continue to fund everything. Too many people are sitting there with a hand out and that is why the country is where it is. Cuts have to be made so please explain where those cuts should be made.

      March 14, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Lenny Pincus

      Let the Bush tax cuts expire and wait five years.

      March 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Alfred the Great

      What is the point if you've already picked your candidate? Do you really believe anything Willard has to say will make Obama change his mind. Doubtful at best.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  20. Jim

    I want people to understand that there are conservatives who support Mitt Romney, so I made a movie explaining why I support Romney: "Why A Conservative Like Me Supports Mitt Romney," http://youtu.be/yDqSzbhb7hY

    March 14, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      That's nice. While it is true that some conservatives support Mitt, a very large faction in the Greed Over People don't think like you.

      March 15, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Jared

      I'm a conservative and I don't support Mitt. I don't think he is a good choice for the country. At the same time, I don't consider the others to be any better.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:09 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
About this blog

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.