Mitt Romney courts evangelicals at Liberty University
Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion has been a problem for some evangelicals. At conservative Liberty University Saturday, Romney stressed Christian values without mentioning his own faith, part of an apparently successful effort to win over evangelicals and other social conservatives.
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As recently as last fall, during the debates leading to the Republican primaries and caucuses, Dallas megachurch Baptist minister and prominent evangelical leader Robert Jeffress (who was supporting Texas Governor Rick Perry at the time), called Romney’s Mormon religion “a cult” and “not Christianity.”Skip to next paragraph
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In January, a survey by YouGov found that 20 percent of Republicans nationally – and 31 percent of Southern evangelical Republicans – would not vote for a “qualified Mormon” for president.
But now that Romney is the apparent Republican nominee, that attitude seems to be changing.
Romney holds a nearly 50-point lead over President Obama (68-19 percent) among white evangelical Protestant voters, a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service finds. The survey also finds that even among the 49 percent of evangelical voters who say that Romney’s religious beliefs are different than their own, Romney still holds a 3-to-1 lead over Obama (67-22 percent).
“The survey signals that white evangelical Protestant voters are moving beyond the reservations they may have held earlier in the campaign about Romney’s Mormon faith,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. “While two-thirds of white evangelical voters say that it is generally important that a presidential candidate share their religious beliefs, their differences with Romney on religion are not translating into a significant lack of support at the ballot box.”
Even the Rev. Jeffress seems to have had a conversion – at least a political conversion – regarding Romney’s religion.
"I think there's a realization among Christians that Jesus isn't on the ballot this year," Jeffress told NPR this week, "and so, I mean, many times, voting is voting for the lesser of two evils."
Only gently and obliquely did Romney allude to the religious difference between himself and those he spoke to Saturday.
"People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology," he said. "Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview."