Why is Romney hesitating in South Carolina?

“He’s making it tough on his South Carolina supporters to get behind him when he doesn’t appear to be engaged in the South Carolina process,” Clemmons told POLITICO. “I just don’t buy the religious bigotry in South Carolina that seems to be part of that message.”

Mormons make up about 2 percent of the U.S population, but they’re closer to 30 percent of the Republican presidential primary field, where two clean-cut, handsome, moderate, millionaire former governors — Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — appear to be seeking the nomination. The biographical similarities between the two men are good for an easy joke – one prominent South Carolina Republican referred to them as the “Doublemint Twins” – but they are taking sharply different approaches to this state, and to a question haunting their supporters: Will the Christian conservative backbone of the Republican electorate in South Carolina and other states support a Mormon? And as Romney seeks to keep a deliberate distance from the state, Huntsman is ostentatiously waving him in, and telling him the water’s fine…

“People will have to reluctantly admit that the Mormon issue was a bigger problem last time around than people would want to acknowledge,” said Warren Tompkins, Romney’s key consultant here in 2008 who is not working for him this cycle. “A large part of [Gov. Mike] Huckabee’s success came at the expense of Gov. Romney being Mormon.”

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