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The Very High Hurdles

It’s true that the polls mean Romney’s religion is a legitimate news angle for political and religion reporters, but I think there might be something to Kurtz’s criticism. Sure, Romney faces some hurdles because of his religion. But at this point in the race, most of those polls are meaningless — imagine what a similar poll would have indicated about John Kennedy’s prospects in 1959. ~Mollie, GetReligion

But this is quite wrong.  Not only do we have reason to believe that the poll cited here is underreporting the level of anti-Mormonism among likely voters, but speculation has been focused heavily on whether Romney could somehow even manage to win the nomination of his own party because opposition to a Mormon candidate is so intense among evangelicals (Rasmussen claims 53% against).  In 1959, no one doubted that a Catholic could theoretically win the Democratic nomination, since ethnic Catholics made up a significant part of the party, they controlled party machinery in some states, and Al Smith had previously won the nomination (before going down to rather ignominious defeat in the general).  What fires the media coverage of Romney’s Mormonism (besides the relative novelty, unfamiliarity and potential for conflict, plus the “religion divides Republicans” angle) is the evidence that key voting blocs in his own party apparently cannot stand the idea of someone from his religion as President. 

Some hurdles?  Yes, I suppose Romney faces “some hurdles,” in the same way that Barack Obama has received “a little bit” of favourable media coverage.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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