Gary Marx, the conservative coalitions director for Mitt Romney, spearheaded the campaign’s outreach to the conservative Christian community. After Romney withdrew from the race yesterday, God-o-Meter asked Marx how big the so-called Mormon factor was in stopping Romney candidacy:
It was ultimately less a factor than I thought it would be because of the College Station, Texas [“Faith in America”] speech was so successful. It didn’t play out in the media after that. It came up as something that was stirred up in places by the other campaigns.
At the same time, Huckabee was able to be successful in his brand of identity politics because there was a group of people who were looking for an alternative [to Romney].
For what it’s worth, God-o-Meter agrees. Yes, the Mormon factor helped do Romney in, Huckabee’s presence makes it impossible to isolate Mormonism as a variable. It’s a lot easier for evangelicals to take Romney’s Mormonism into account when there’s a clear evangelical alternative, when the choices aren’t just Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, or Mitt Romney.
Since Romney’s planning to run again in 2012, God-o-Meter asked whether it wasn’t likely that another evangelical candidate would be able to benefit from the “Mormon factor.” After all, Huck isn’t the only Republican evangelical candidate of recent cycles. Remember Pat Robertson in 1988? Gary Bauer in 2000? George W. Bush more recently? “It’s totally different when you’re running against pastor,” Marx said, “who’s preaching from a different pulpit each Sunday.”
No doubt about that. Of course, if you’re a Mormon running to be the candidate of the GOP’s evangelical base, you’re going to meet some serious resistance, whether facing a Baptist preacher like Huckabee or not. Perhaps 2012 will present another test of whether it’s possible to overcome that resistance.