Of course, Beck passes muster where Romney didn’t because, for one, he isn’t running for president. “You can be just sort of anybody—a business person or an entertainer or a musician or a TV personality—and talk about values and morals and people will rally around you,” says Mark DeMoss, who helped Romney with evangelical outreach in 2008. “But then a lot of people apply another standard…if you’re going to be president.” Moreover, Beck can speak for socially conservative Christians because he keeps the specifics of his faith to himself. “He isn’t seen as pushing his Mormonism,” says Land. (Only 17 percent of Americans know Beck is a Mormon, according to a new poll.)
While Beck articulates the frustrations many conservative Christian voters feel currently, Lindsay says Beck’s anointing among leaders of the religious right reflects something else: a willingness to reconsider Romney in 2012. “It’s definitely a testing of the waters,” he says. After all, conservative, white Protestants joined forces with their old foes, Roman Catholics, to fight abortion; they may find among Latter-day Saints surprising and powerful allies on that and other issues, like gay marriage, as well.