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God-O-Meter

romney2.jpgTwo pieces today combat this week’s Washington Times piece about the threat of Mitt Romney giving evangelicals more agita should John McCain draft him as a running mate. The first, a Politico story headlined “Romney could lift McCain in West” points out that Romney’s evangelical problem matters a lot less out West:

He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, considered a cult by some evangelical Christians and Southern Baptists. Despite his central-casting good looks, he often comes across as aloof. And he and McCain taunted each other in the primaries, which could be exploited by Democrats.
But in the West, those problems are molehills, not mountains. Romney raised millions of dollars in the region — not known as a fundraising hot spot — and Arizona, Colorado and Nevada have large Mormon populations. In GOP strongholds such as Utah and Idaho, many LDS members are expected to help in get-out-the-vote efforts in surrounding states….
Even Focus on the Family leader James Dobson — who has softened his stance on McCain, a candidate he had said he would never vote for — doesn’t think Romney would be a bad VP choice.
“Dr. Dobson liked his speech about faith very much,” said spokesman Gary Schneeberger, referring to Romney’s December address, where he spoke about the importance of religion in American society but that it should be separate from public responsibilities. “He wants a pro-life running mate, and Romney qualifies for that.”

The second plug for Romney comes from HorseRaceBlogger Jay Cost, who tackles the “Romney will alienate evangelicals” charge:

Maybe, but my feeling is that evangelical voters are going to vote. Again, turnout will be high if the election is close. So if they vote, who will they vote for? Barack Obama? Bob Barr? Ralph Nader? No, no, and no. Evangelicals are usually Republicans, which means we should expect them to vote Republican. Plus, Obama would never touch the “Mormon issue,” not even with a ten-foot poll. That will minimize its salience.

Both lines of argument have merit. But they ignore a crucial fact of the modern Republican grassroots machine: it’s made up largely of evangelical voters. It’s no secret that those activists are underwhelmed by John McCain. But would they work to promote his candidacy if Mike Huckabee were his running mate? Probably. If Tim Pawlenty were his running mate? Probably. Bobby Jindal? Probably–and conservative Catholic activists would get on board, too.
But Mitt Romney? Sure, most evangelicals would vote for him. But a lot fewer would get out to knock on doors and talk him up at the Sunday church picnic. In a year when Democrats are much more enthusiastic about Barack Obama than Republicans are about McCain, that’s a pretty big disadvantage from which to operate, and one that McCain could avoid with a handful of other picks.


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