romney18.jpgLeave it to The Salt Lake Tribune, the Church of Latter-day Saints’ hometown paper, to keep insisting that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is a drag on his candidacy. As God-o-Meter sees it, the only problem with these stories–and there have been one or two a week for months on end now–is that they never cite hard evidence. Now, God-o-Meter realizes this doesn’t mean that anti-Mormon sentiment isn’t real. It is. But if the Tribune needs only find yet one more religion scholar who says evangelicals won’t vote for a Mormon–for reasons we all know by now–to justify the latest Mitt-can’t-beat-his-Mormonism piece, God-o-Meter thinks the paper is setting the bar too low.
Take this morning’s Tribune piece: Evangelical fears: Romney struggles to shift attention from his religion. It opens with an anecdote of a woman who tells Romney she’s dubious about his faith at a forum in New Hampshire. Since that woman is won over to Romney’s side by story’s end, however, the Trib hangs its entire Mormon-can’t-win story on a quote from a single scholar:

“It’s virtually impossible for Romney to calm the religious fears of evangelicals,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.
“There’s a limit to what he can do with religion at this point. [And] it’s only going to get worse after New Hampshire.”

The piece cites the outcome of the Iowa caucuses as proof positive of Romney’s ongoing struggle to get evangelicals to accept him despite his faith:

…Iowa made clear his religion is a hurdle he has yet to overcome. Romney finished a fairly distant second to Huckabee and managed to attract only about one of every five evangelical

God-o-Meter can’t argue with those stats. And the Romney team itself, privately, cites anti-Mormonism as a factor for its weak showing among Iowa evangelicals. But God-o-Meter just wants to remind everyone that Romney was vying with a Baptist preacher for evangelical votes in Iowa, and that Romney’s record on so-called values issues like abortion and gay rights has been about as consistent as Hillary Clinton’s hairdos. So while Romney’s Mormonism continues to be a stumbling block, it’s by no means his biggest hurdle. Particularly not in New Hampshire. The Tribune should find some new angles for its Romney coverage.


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