Despite many evangelicals' wishes, the GOP nominee is a Mormon. Now what?
—By Tim Murphy
It hasn't been pretty—often, it's been quite ugly—but after racking up three more primary wins in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Mitt Romney has almost guaranteed that he will become the first Mormon presidential nominee from a major party. Now the dozens of evangelical pastors across the country who have criticized the former Massachusetts governor's Mormon faith are faced with an awkward (if not painful) choice: Stand their ground against a faith they believe is a "cult"—or cast their lot with the lesser of two evils.
The Mormon issue has been dogging Romney since he began his first presidential race five years ago. According to a Gallup poll, 18 percent of Republicans say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon for president—and it's not a coincidence that throughout the 2012 contest, Romney's success has been inversely proportional to the percentage of evangelicals voting in a given state. (There's even a website, Evangelicals for Mitt, devoted to answering the question, "How Can I Vote For a Mormon?")
But anti-Mormon opposition to Romney has never been uniform, which is why there's no reason to assume it will all vanish before November. This religious-based antipathy falls into several distinct categories. There are conservative Christian pastors who would prefer a candidate who embraces their worldview entirely but will swallow their misgivings if necessary to support ABO (Anyone But Obama). There are black ministers who would sooner stay home than support someone who belongs to a "racist religion." And there are the die-hard anti-Mormons, folks who believe a Mormon president would doom a new generation of Americans to hell.
In other words, it's complicated.