Primary results in Florida show that Mitt Romney show that Romney may be gaining evangelical voters, a group once thought impossible for him to win.
Analysis by the Pew Forum shows that 36% of white evangelical Republican primary voters cast their ballots for Romney, while 38% went for Gingrich, 19% for Santorum, and 5% for Ron Paul. In 2008, Romney drew 31% of white evangelical Florida Republican primary voters, while 31% voted for Mike Huckabee and 28% for John McCain.
Florida’s results add further complication and dimension to the already disorganized picture of evangelical voting behavior this primary season. In Iowa, evangelical voters favored Santorum; in New Hampshire, Romney; in South Carolina, Gingrich—even after a convention of evangelical social conservatives endorsed Rick Santorum in Dallas on January 17.
And the strength of the anti-Mormonism narrative is likely to fade as the race heads out west into regions where more voters are able to moderate their judgments of Mormonism with actual contact with LDS people. In Nevada, it is estimated that 20–25% of GOP voters are LDS.
If Romney stays on course, the real loser in this primary contest may be Mormons’ persecution complex.