What happens if Romney becomes the GOP nominee? A November 2011 Pew poll showed Republicans who say Mormonism is not a Christian religion were less likely to support Romney for the GOP nomination, but seemingly would overwhelmingly back him in a run against Obama in the general election. Might evangelicals stay home? A January YouGov poll found 31% of Southern evangelicals say they would not vote for a qualified Mormon for president, yet only 12% said they whould stay home if Romney is the nominee — a similar result as that given for Gingrich and Rick Perry. Moreover, Romney did as well against Obama as Gingrich or Perry in this poll.
That 12% number may be comforting, but the 31% number may give some pause to consider whether an anti-Mormon “Bradley effect” might lurk for a Mitt Romney candidacy. Obviously, the answer to that question is unknown at this time. However, the states in which a “Romney effect” would be most likely also tend to be the reddest of the Red States, won heavily by McCain in the face of a political perfect storm favoring Barack Obama. Any Romney effect would have to be shockingly large to matter in most of the South. A Romney effect could conceivably make North Carolina and Virginia more difficult to win. But even in that unlikely scenario, it is unclear that Santorum or Gingrich would be a better candidate in either state.