McCain: Let’s face it, there was some sort of anti-Mormon element to that South Carolina vote

posted at 2:50 pm on January 28, 2012 by Allahpundit

A little token of affection for South Carolinians from the guy they chose over Mitt Romney four years ago.

“We haven’t had time to do a real analysis of the Romney race in South Carolina, but once we break that down, there was some element of anti-Mormonism in that vote,” McCain asserted. “I’m not saying all of it, but there were elements there. There was nothing that Mitt Romney could have done.”

Could that bias, if it exists, extend beyond the Palmetto State to others in the South if the primary drags on? “I’m not sure [but] I don’t think so,” McCain said, pointing to Georgia as one place he doesn’t believe would hold Romney’s religion against him.

McCain cited the possible anti-Mormonism in response to a query about the growing Tea Party support Gingrich has begun to draw, particularly in Florida.

Interesting that it was a question about tea partiers that spurred Maverick to raise the possibility of religious prejudice; I wonder what his former running mate thinks of that. Note that he’s careful here not to allege that anti-Mormonism was decisive in Gingrich’s win, but if he didn’t think it was a significant factor he wouldn’t have brought it up. Is he right? Well, go back and look at the polls in SC over the final week of the campaign. On January 16, just five days before the primary, Rasmussen had Romney up by 14 points. The Fox News debate with the exchange between Newt and Juan Williams was held that night; two days later, Politico’s new poll found Romney’s lead cut in half. That was the last poll in which Gingrich trailed. Other polls taken on the 18th showed him leading Romney narrowly and then, after the CNN debate on the 19th in which he unloaded on John King, his numbers took off and he ended up winning by 13 points. Was anti-Mormonism a major contributing factor to a 27-point swing in five days even though no one of any significance was talking about Romney’s faith? Seriously?

To the extent that McCain is basing this on anything, I think he’s extrapolating from the exit-poll data. This data set got some attention on election night:

Romney finishes dead last among the “a great deal” crowd. But is that because they’re anti-Mormon specifically or just pro-Christian generally? You’d expect devout believers of any religious group to have a preference for candidates who share their faith, and in this case Romney’s being squeezed between the frontrunner and a famously socially conservative Christian candidate in Santorum. In fact, he actually finished second, ahead of Santorum, among evangelicals:

He does markedly better among non-evangelicals, but that gets us into the question of how much these religious demographics overlap with ideological demographics. Do evangelicals prefer Newt because he’s not a Mormon or do evangelicals prefer Newt because they tend to be more conservative generally and think Newt is more conservative than Romney? More data:

Would have been nice if the pollsters had included religious beliefs as an option there, but note how well Newt performs in three of these categories. He won the race by 13 points but he’s 15 points ahead on experience, 36 points ahead on conservative convictions, and he’s got a clear majority on the crucial issue of electability. (Newt himself attributed his win to changing perceptions of which candidate is most electable.) The only category in which he collapses is moral character. If there was some strong current of anti-Mormon sentiment out there on election day, how likely is it that it would have gravitated to the guy who finished rock bottom in the “character” department? Or is McCain suggesting that the hypothetical anti-Mormon voters who would have/should have otherwise gone to Mitt actually flowed to Santorum? Hard for me to believe that Santorum’s voters would have broken for the guy from Massachusetts who was pro-choice until about five years ago, but oh well.

One more data point:

I think that’s the real snapshot of who won and why. The further right you go on the ideological spectrum, the more appealing Newt is vis-a-vis Romney. Nothing surprising about that, from the contrast between Gingrich’s budget-balancing as Speaker and Romney’s enactment of RomneyCare in Massachusetts to Gingrich’s populist tactics of hammering “media elites” to the yawning gap in their respective abilities to articulate the conservative vision. There’s a reason why Mark Steyn’s parody of Romney’s stump speech resonated with so many readers, after all, and it ain’t because they’re anti-Mormon. But nice job by McCain to inject this poisonous issue into an already bitter primary. It’s simultaneously insulting to the heavy majority of primary voters who have nothing against Romney’s faith and risky for Mitt insofar as it introduces the subject to some in the small minority who might. Dumb.

Update: Here’s Gallup’s national poll on anti-Mormon sentiment from last June. There are, assuredly, some Republicans who won’t vote for Romney because of his faith — although, if Gallup is right, anti-Mormon sentiment is higher among Democrats (and independents) than it is among the GOP. Nationally, 18 percent of Republicans say they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon, but that’s in the abstract, not in the context of a specific choice between two or three candidates. Remember that even Robert Jeffress, who called Mormonism a “cult,” said that he’d support Romney over Obama if forced to. There may be some voters who would prefer not to vote for a Mormon but who end up voting for Mitt in the primaries anyway simply because they find Gingrich and Santorum unelectable and/or otherwise unacceptable.

In any case, I’m not sure why McCain seems to think this problem is especially significant in South Carolina, even vis-a-vis other southern states like Georgia. The south wasn’t even the region that polled highest for anti-Mormon sentiment in Gallup’s poll. It was the midwest, at 26 percent.


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Reading the comments of the Pro-Gingrich sites, I’d say that there is a good portion of the Pro-Gingrich supporters that really are merely Anti-Mormon.

bains on January 28, 2012 at 8:57 PM

And reading the comments of the Pro-Romney folks, I’d say that there is a good portion of Pro-Romney supporters that really are as incapable as liberals at making an argument without pulling out the everyone-knows-its-bullsqueeze – ‘anti-mormon card’.

You should damn well be ashamed of yourself.

Midas on January 29, 2012 at 1:35 AM

One only has to listen to the blathering Meghan to understand that “apple falling from the tree” theory.

Pam Bondi, whom I’ve always admired, just buried Romney with her state Romneycare exposure. Think Greta stopped breathing there for a while, as did Beck going off the deep end trying to get his boy in the big house.

Obamacare is killing our state..wait, let me rephrase that..Obamacare is killing people. But then again, it’s the most Democratic state in the nation.

The more I listen to Romney, the more he sounds like our Obama, especially at his campaign functions. It’s that entitlement attitude that both Obama and Hillary had.

It’s gonna be a long road, fasten those seat belts.

Maile on January 29, 2012 at 1:58 AM

So you haters, you just go on hating, we good and honest people have a country to save.

petunia on January 29, 2012 at 12:04 AM

I imagine attempting to replace one already-seated liberal with a fresher, paler liberal must be fairly labor intensive, yes.

Kent18 on January 29, 2012 at 2:48 AM

The more I listen to Romney, the more he sounds like our Obama, especially at his campaign functions.

Maile on January 29, 2012 at 1:58 AM

Nah, he’s not our Obama. He’s our John Kerry.

ddrintn on January 29, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Nah, he’s not our Obama. He’s our John Kerry.

ddrintn on January 29, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Yeah, but John Kerry served in Vietnam. /

Those evangelicals in South Carolina sure are a bunch of haters — so much so they voted for 2 Catholics and a Mormon ahead of the only Baptist in the race.

CJ on January 29, 2012 at 8:16 AM

I’m starting to get real uncomfortable with the people behind Mitt. These are the ones that Sarah is warning us against. It seems they don’t mind saying anything hateful, except for directing it toward our dear leader. Is Mitt even in control of his own campaign? I hated voting for McLame and only did so because of SP.

Kissmygrits on January 29, 2012 at 9:28 AM

McCain like all liberals will always blame somebody or something else when his plans don’t work. Did he really believe that the voters in South Carolina were going to jump through hoops because he endorsed Romney? This old fool needs to exit stage left.

savage24 on January 29, 2012 at 9:51 AM

bains on January 28, 2012 at 8:57 PM

Just so incredibly smart.

Cindy Munford on January 29, 2012 at 11:00 AM

That picture accompanying this post lead in says it all…America is screwed big government time!

aposematic on January 29, 2012 at 11:49 AM

“…but once we break that down, there was some element of anti-Mormonism in that vote…”

McCain’s English teacher is weeping in the afterlife.

ynot4tony2 on January 29, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Real question and I want a honest answer, When Romney is President and says “God bless America”… which god are you praying too?

apocalypse on January 28, 2012 at 3:13 PM

The same God that all other politicians, Presidents and people worship.

Conservative Samizdat on January 29, 2012 at 2:25 PM

Why all the sturm and drang about which church any of these probable atheists do or don’t go to? The presidency is a secular executive office, and I suspect religious affiliation is way down the on list of qualifications of most voters. Please don’t ask for a link to “prove” it, it’s just my opinion.

Ham Sammich 2012

S. D. on January 30, 2012 at 12:30 AM

Real question and I want a honest answer, When Romney is President and says “God bless America”… which god are you praying too?

apocalypse on January 28, 2012 at 3:13 PM

The same God that all other politicians, Presidents and people worship.

Conservative Samizdat on January 29, 2012 at 2:25 PM

You can believe that feel-good, pseudo-ecumenical garbage all you want but it’s not true…

apocalypse on January 30, 2012 at 1:52 PM

Midas on January 29, 2012 at 1:32 AM

While Romney may have been on both sides of many issues, Gingrich has been on both sides of the issues AT THE SAME TIME – and still is!

CanofSand on January 30, 2012 at 8:32 PM

CanofSand on January 30, 2012 at 8:32 PM

http://michellemalkin.com/2012/01/30/for-santorum/

CanofSand on January 30, 2012 at 8:32 PM

Comment pages: 1 3 4 5