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. tonyl

    Bible belt belong to the Christians not the Mormons.

    March 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • raggmopp

      The country belongs to ALL americans – christian, mormon, islamic, jewish, non-believers, etc...

      March 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Hurrry hurry...come closer...look upon the dumbest group of people around. Folks for just $5 you can witness feats of ignorance. Come watch the christians.

      March 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  2. Lucky18

    Take a look at the picture...What don't you see?

    March 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • EagleEye

      Nope.....you missed him! They snuck one black person into the shot..... back row....just in front of where the "E" in Romney is on the banner. Disgraceful – but then again, what self-respecting African American would be seen at a Romney meeting!?!

      March 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  3. Lucky18

    "Romeny stumbles in bible belt"
    Gee, that's too bad...Maybe he should chnage his "magic underwear"!

    March 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  4. Don

    "Evangilical" and "Ignorant" are becoming more and more the equivalent. They hung blacks, the hung Mormons and they ignore that they are losing more and more followers as time goes on. People are becoming aware of the hatefest coming out of the evangilical seminaries in the name of God.

    March 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Toad

      I can't say I ever had the opportunity to hang a Mormon.

      March 15, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • EagleEye

      Historically, more people have been slaughtered in the name of "god" than anything else. That's why I have such a problem with religious extremists like the evangelicals. They want to drag us back in time – to the "good old days" - when women were barefoot and pregnant, and along with children were considered chattel. Christian Sharia Law – that's all they want. Sick puppies those folks. No wonder the vast majority of us don't ever want to visit the bible belt (where teeth are optional.)

      March 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  5. marinedad05

    My advice for him is to promptly renounce his religion, and become a born-again southern Baptist. After that start talking only about religion, God, cultural values, abortion, family values, 'common man', and blame all the problems the country faces on liberals, Obama, France, Europe, the Chinese, outsourcing, ...in short everyone else, except themselves.

    This is what works very well n the boonies, they might just forget he's a Mormon, and he ain't one of 'em!

    Oh...before I forget, make sure to change that accent, and eat some of them grits.... and keep yellin heee haaw!

    Remember Mitt, true to form, you can always renounce all that, once you become the Nominee.

    March 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  6. dkinabq


    March 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer never works


      March 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Christianity Sux

      yep. It makes you dumb

      March 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Things change prayer.

      March 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Reality Based

      Praying is something humans invented for use when they got scared, didn't have an explanation, or wanted a wish granted. It is a tool that fills (for some) a psychological void when they just can't face the fact that we are biological specimens, just like all the protozoa, insects, birds, animals, fishes, reptiles and bacteria on this Earth and need to somehow feel superior or connected to some "deity." that controls their destiny.

      March 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven .

      March 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven . .

      March 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • just sayin

      Whether it is for evil, like a stolen name or for good, the encouragement to prayer, the message that "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things" is being used to expose an insidious evil that is atheism. Praise God

      March 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer never changes things


      March 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  8. Phil in KC

    Mitt's problem is that you can't reason with religious zealots. You can only pander to their narrow view of 'how things should be'. Santorum has done the best job of that because he, too, has a very narrow view of 'how things should be'. They're against theocracies, yet advocate for a virtual Christian theocracy. They're all for freedom, as long as you believe the same way they do. Very hypocritical.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • phneutral


      March 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  9. Rene

    Romney is not winning because people don't like him, PERIOD!

    March 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • drp146


      March 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • nairb247

      Ummm actually Romney is winning, he has more delegates than the other three combined and is leading in the popular vote by over a million votes.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • John

      I agree as well........

      March 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  10. Col. Kolob

    Why is this surprising? Mormonism isn't even close to mainstream Christian theology much less Southern Baptist or First Assemblies theology. In fact, since morman's don't believe that anyone other than themselves can be saved, that their founder had 30+ wives (some married themselves), include in their core doctrine stories about ancient American cultures that no archeologist can prove ever existed, have key concepts based on misinterpretations of Egyptian papyri (everyone has debunked Joe Smith Egyptologist skills as he was never trained as one); I wouldn't expect any mainstream or bible belt christian to support Romney.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • nairb247

      You are wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start. We will chalk your comments up to ignorance.

      March 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • LaGryphon

      Actually, what he is stating is quite accurate!

      March 15, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Lenny Pincus

      Interesting, since evangelicals think only they, the born again, get into heaven; that plenty of Old Testament leaders had multiple wives–but Jesus didn't have any; that there is no archeological evidence for many of their "core stories"; and that much of Christian doctrine rests on interpretations of the Bible–try Leviticus on for size. it would seem the Colonel's critique of Mormonism applies equally to Christianity.

      March 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  11. AGuest9

    Not surprising. They used to listen to their preachers and burn crosses down there, too.

    March 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I live here... they still do that.

      March 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • just sayin

      I burn crosses on the lawns of any nigras in my neighborhood.

      March 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  12. drp146

    "Vote for me! I'll tell ya, people, I'm eating grits and saying Y'all, strange things are happening to me. Hey look, I've got my red neck buddy Jeff with me! I'm so glad the trees are just the right height here. Hey, I know the NASCAR and NFL team owners, that's impressive, right?. And did I tell you that Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs? I know you can relate to me, wait, wait, I'll sing at you, Oh beautiful for wealthy guys, when money flows like grain......"

    March 15, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • PR

      great song, very funny. What's the rest??

      March 15, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • drp146

      @PR I hadn't thought about completing it, but I might. It could be funny.

      March 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • bnfl0028


      March 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Romney's campaign manager probably drinks a lot of liquor every night after Romney does a speech.

      March 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  13. Lenny Pincus

    "More veterans are coming back from war and getting back to work in the civilian job force, thanks to efforts by both employers and the government, as well as the improving economy." Perhaps all those religious fanatics in the Bible Belt should put down the Good Book and check out reality.

    March 15, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  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 12:02 pm |
    • PR

      Wow!! If I'm understanding you correctly then the repubs would do better if they allowed birth control and went against the church in regards to providing contraceptives because that would reduce the # of abortions thereby giving the republicans a bigger voting base.

      March 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Reality

      The reality of contraception and STD control:

      Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

      The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

      : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

      Added information before making your next move:

      from the CDC-2006

      "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

      And from:

      Consumer Reports, January, 2012

      "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

      Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

      "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

      Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

      March 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  15. tp1776

    I can't understand all the ignorant bleating about Romney's losses in the south. for the record, I'm a Massachusetts Democrat and have never voted for Romney, never will. So he lost Alabama and Mississippi to conservative/tea party/evangelical voters...SO WHAT? He's still gonna get the nomination. Even if all the conservative/tea party/evangelical voters stay home next November, Obama still won't carry those states. This is all just empty noise.

    March 15, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  16. John

    Thump, thump, thump, thump. The sound of the bible belt responding to Mitt, as well as the sound of the grim reaper coming for the GOP. Thump, thump, thump, thump.

    March 15, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  17. rtbrno65

    It's good to see that good ol' religious bigotry is alive and well in the US.

    March 15, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Mark H

      I think it's more that Romney misrepresents his religion in an attempt to appeal to Christian voters. I'd be more comfortable with him not lying about what true LDS beliefs are.

      March 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  18. alex

    Mitt is trying to be someone he is not and everyone sees right through him. When he gets the nomination eventually most of them will vote for mitt. But not all. And Mitt has alienated the independent middle in the process of trying to pander to the extreme right. Add these to his flip flops and Mitt is toast in November...

    March 15, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  19. dave

    Interesting – the Bible Belt and the Let's Lynch Someone for Being Black Belt are in the same place

    How did Gingrich get married if he is supposed to be Catholic now - in the eyes of the church is he not still cheating on his wife

    March 15, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      He had very good reasons for divorcing two women.
      The 1st one was nothing but a cancerous bother, not very pretty and always demanding attention! "Hold my hand during chemo, Newt", "Drive me to the hospital, Newt", nag nag nag. You'd have served her with divorce paper as she lay convalescing too.
      As for his second wife, he had to cheat on her because he loves America so much. He put in so many hours at the office defending freedom, it was inevitable that he'd start schtupping his secretary. It's his 2nd wife's fault for not being understanding enough to grant him an open marriage. Really, that kind of selfishness isn't very Christian, is it? She should obey her husband in all things – including letting him stick his little Newt into any hole he wants.
      They say God forgives necessity, and you can see how it was necessary for Newt to get married 3 times.

      March 15, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • momoya

      In america, if you're rich enough or politically-connected enough, the laws and morals don't apply..

      March 15, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • marinedad05

      @Doc Vestibule

      Which is all very true. And in the end it was all John King's fault for bringing up these multiple divorces up in the debate.

      How dare he?

      And the Newt was right to kill the messenger!

      March 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  20. amarjeet

    Because he inside really do not believe in bible & only cheating people who know his inside.Aspiring for power at the cost of faith is murder of faith & belief which are spirtual commitments of man to bible.

    March 15, 2012 at 10:50 am |
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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.