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A serious Romney run for president might be more aggravating for Mormons in general than it would be for Romney in particular. It would provide, after all, a much broader and more public forum for anti-Mormon propaganda, the sort of thing that causes teeth-grinding and the urge to slap.

Although I wasn't old enough to vote for John F. Kennedy, I do recall the campaign and its absurdities well -- shift of power from D.C. to Vatican City (substitute Salt Lake City), for example, and regular trotting-out of the traditional Protestant stance that all Roman Catholics are hell-bound sinners determined to return to the good old days of the Protestant/heathen purge.

In the years since, "conservative" Protestants of all ilks have found it expedient to work with Roman Catholics because of shared views on some social issues. Catholicism has ceased almost entirely to be a political issue. But if you scratch the hard-shell Baptist surface, you'll still find a conviction that the Pope remains a likely candidate for Anti-Christ and that heaven is going to populated only by born-again Baptist believers (you can substitute any right-wing Protestant denomination for "Baptist" here).

Politics is, after all, the art of expediency; and when the dust has settled I think Romney would have as much of a chance (if not better) of being elected as any other Republican candidate,providing he could clear the primaries. And there's a fairly big field of solid Republican candidates with broad appeal to contend with as well.

He is likable, efficient, high on the "family values" yardstick and socially conservative. Clear consensus-building answers to nagging questions of the day (the war in Iraq if it's still with us, the current disaster-response crisis if it's still with us, etc.) probably would sway more voters than matters specifically religious.

Having said that, I won't be voting for any GOP candidate. I'm a hard-shell yellow-dog (if that there yeller dog's a Democrat I'm a gonna vote for it) Democrat. But I certainly wish Mr. Romney well, and would not be overly distressed were he actually elected.

As a political scientist, I am here to sadly inform you, Dave, that much of the existing empirical research shows social group attachment to play a huge role in voting decisions. Personal likeability is also important, as are policy stands. But social group attachments are a part of people's fundamental self-conceptions and as such are really quite powerful attitudes.

In other words, people might like Mitt Romney a lot, and that will push them toward supporting him in the primary elections. But their identity as Evangelical Christians means that, at a basic level, they're on a different team from Romney. So that will be a major pressure against supporting Romney in the primaries.

Another way of thinking about this is to reverse the situation. How much chance would an Evangelical Christian have in a campaign for one of Utah's Senate seats, or for governor of Utah?

RT, I think that's true for most elections and most candidates, but there are a few politicians whose likeability or charisma (for lack of better terms) allows them to transcend their group affiliation. Reagan and Clinton, I think, had that quality for many voters. But personal charm is more valuable in the final election; primaries are grittier, which is where Romney would have his biggest trouble connecting with group-conscious Evangelicals.

If Romney could get past the primaries, I agree that he'd have little trouble with Evangelical loyalty in the general elections. After all, Mormons may be on a different team than Evangelicals--but gays and feminists are almost certainly worse for most Evangelicals.

Dave - Here's a link to an Evangelical blog discussing this issue:

http://www.worldmagblog.com/blog/archives/017862.html

RT: An evangelical christian candidate in UT would do just fine; unless they openly & explicitly said bad things about the majority religion in the state.

The Aug. 15 issue of "The New Yorker" had an article by Peter Boyer on Billy Graham and his son, Franklin Graham. The article reviewed the history of 20th century disputes among american protestants. According to the article, at one time there was huge antagonism by many fundamentalists against mainstream protestants (as well as against catholics). Fundamentalists were even surprisingly hostile towards Billy Graham because of his willingness to work with the mainstream.
This antagonism has mellowed considerably, due in part to the influence of Graham himself.

I suspect there is also trend of mellowing in antagonism towards mormons. I'm not sure if it's gone far enough to give Romney a chance, though.

The other factor here is the self-fulfilling prophecy component of voting. If a reasonable proportion of the Republican electorate assumes that Romney has no chance because of the Evangelicals, they will tend to vote for some other candidate even if they prefer Romney--because they want to avoid wasting their votes. So, in order for Romney's candidacy to be sunk, it's sufficient for a lot of people to perceive him as not having a chance due to his religion...

Every ballot contains a finite list of people who aren't the voters' first choice. Evangelicals have to choose from among the candidates running, and I think Romney is likely to stack up well against McCain and certainly Guiliani. Frist suffers from charisma and testosterone deficiency, leaving George Allen and Bill Owens the only two major candidates who may be more appealing to evangelicals.

(Roasted Tomatoes, I suspect Utah Mormons would elect George Bush over Harry Reid; but it would be interesting to see a formal survey.)

Matt, not a fair comparison because of party differences and differences in resources and positive media coverage. A fairer race would between George Bush circa 1998 and Mike Leavitt circa 1998.

I agree with RT, probably because i was indoctrinated into those views in poly sci classes. Electoral politics are generally highly predictable, and guys like Clinton and Reagan are not just rare--they're able to tap into some current of mainstream culture that is temporarily stronger than some of these group affiliations. I don't think Romney is capable of duplicating their results.

What I think would be more interesting is the debate it would bring up about Salt Lake City's ability to influence the would-be president. I think that debate would go beyond Romney's track record and bring up Utah state politics for national scrutiny. Could get uncomfortable. Can you imagine Romney calling off his campaign after a media storm over the Main Street Plaza?

Another thought: Salem radio is a Christian radio network that is one of the largest radio networks in the country. One of their most popular (I believe THE most popular) radio personalities is Michael Medved, an observant Jew, a man whose religion explicitly denies the divinity of Jesus Christ.

I think this is further evidence that evangelical Christians are ever more willing to make common cause with anyone on the "right" side of the culture wars.

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