John F. Kennedy had to overcome anti-Catholicism, and did. Barack Obama had to overcome racism, and did. John McCain had to overcome ageism, and didn't (thanks, in part, to his boneheaded decision to pick the consummately unqualified veep choice).
Will Mitt Romney overcome what is clearly a lingering bigotry against Mormonism, especially in the evangelical South? For all of the big-picture analyses we all continue to write about Romney's lack of appeal to a radicalized GOP "base," his third-place finish in Alabama and Mississippi could have had more to do with straightforward prejudice.
Well before Tuesday's primaries, I had heard prominent Mormon Republicans express concerns about this sleeping serpent. "The story that's not being written enough is that there is a lot of discomfort with Latter-day Saints, and all the other issues are masking that underlying prejudice," said one Republican who supports Romney. "The truth is, there is not a dime's worth of difference when it comes to public policy between Romney, [Rick] Santorum, and [Newt] Gingrich."
As we head to the more tolerant North for the critical round of primaries there--and out of the unreconstructed Deep South--Romney may soon find the true test is not his conservatism but the digestibility of his Mormonism. Stay tuned.
-- Michael Hirsh
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Santorum-Gingrich Ticket Floated By Gingrich Adviser NEW!
[Huffington Post, 3/14/12] An unholy alliance or the best ticket in town? A senior Gingrich adviser said that a Gingrich-Santorum team would "make a powerful team against Barack Obama."
Will the GOP Convention Be a Battleground?
[National Journal, 3/14/12] Many mocked the idea of a contested convention, but after the Tuesday contests in Alabama and Mississippi, the possibility seems increasingly likely. National Journal’s Alex Roarty explores whether it is time to take the convention seriously as a potential battleground.
More Republicans Calling for Newt Gingrich to Leave GOP Race NEW!
[Washington Post, 3/14/12] Following his loss in both Southern states to vote Tuesday night, the calls for Gingrich to suspend his race are growing louder.
Santorum Spending on Illinois Cable
[Politico, 3/14/12] Citing a media-buying source, Politico reports that Santorum will go up with Illinois cable ads on Thursday, his first paid-media buy in the state, to the tune of $116,533. The March 20 Land of Lincoln primary is the nominating season’s next significant contest.
Romney to Saturate Illinois Airwaves Ahead of Primary
[Chicago Tribune, 3/14/12] The Romney campaign just purchased a $550,000 ad buy in Illinois to run until the state's Tuesday primary, in a move that signifies the newfound importance the Midwestern state holds in the GOP race.
How Mitt Romney Lost Latinos NEW!
[Politico, 3/14/12] Recent polls reveal that in November, Obama could gain the same level of Latino support as he did in 2008. But Romney, who has shifted hard to the right to win over conservatives, may have undone all the work the GOP's undertaken to gain footing in the demographic group that's likely to play a large role in the election this fall.
Santorum Supports Puerto Rico Statehood with English Mandate NEW!
[National Journal, 3/14/12] At a campaign stop in Puerto Rico, which awards 20 delegates on Sunday, Santorum said he was totally for PR statehood, as long as Puerto-Ricans--who generally speak both Spanish and English -- adopted English as their official language.
Pew: Romney Regains Lead Over Santorum, Falls Further Behind Obama
[National Journal, 3/14/12] Romney has regained a significant national lead over Santorum, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. But that may have come at the expense of electability compared to President Obama in a hypothetical matchup.
Romney Banking on Swing-State Strength NEW!
[Wall Street Journal, 3/14/12] Though he may not be the favorite of the GOP's conservative base, if Romney can just make it past the nominating process, his strengths will shine. Those strengths include strong performances in the swing states that could decide the 2012 election.
Analysis: Santorum Wins only Slow Romney's Path to Nomination
[Chicago Tribune, 3/14/12] Although the Illinois primary has been known to settle nomination fights in past high-profile primary races, it's unlikely to be decisive for this year's field. However, Santorum's advances last night aren't likely to stop Romney's march to the nomination.
Born-Again Christians Dominate GOP Vote in Alabama, Mississippi
[Associated Press, 3/13/12] White born-again evangelical Christians dominated the two Southern states’ primaries, showing up in numbers unsurpassed by any state where voters have been polled so far this year, according to exit polls. Around 8 in 10 voters who participated in the Mississippi primary self-identified as white evangelical or born-again Christian, while nearly 75 percent did so in Alabama.
Romney: ‘Guess What? I Made a Lot of Money’ NEW!
[National Journal, 3/14/12] Romney was uncharacteristically short with Fox News' Megyn Kelly when he defended his wealth this afternoon in response to questions about his campaign-trail gaffes where he seemed out of touch with average Americans.
Worst of Outcomes for Mitt Romney
[Boston Globe, 3/14/12] The Globe’s Christopher Rowland writes that Santorum’s Deep South doubleheader shook up the race once again, highlighting Romney’s chronic weakness among conservatives while raising questions about Gingrich’s ability to remain a major force in the contest.
Romney Wins in Hawaii, American Samoa
[National Journal, 3/14/12] Romney won caucuses in Hawaii and American Samoa on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, increasing his delegate count to at least 31 and perhaps taking some of the sting out of his third-place finish in both Alabama and Mississippi.
Why Ron Paul May Cut a Deal With Mitt Romney
[Swampland, 3/14/12] The idea that Romney and Paul are in cahoots has been floated before, and it seems that with Paul ending his political career, he may have no other option but to ride piggyback on Romney's nomination to further his libertarian policy goals.
Losing, Newt Sets New Goal: Keep Mitt From 1,144
[Washington Examiner, 3/14/12] Why won't Newt Gingrich drop out of the race, despite consistently disappointing performances even in states that seem like easy wins for him? Perhaps he's trying to force a brokered convention, where could emerge as the nominee.
Senate Republicans Dread Drawn-Out GOP Primary
[Roll Call, 3/14/12] Prominent Senate Republicans said on Tuesday that failing to select a nominee by the end of June would allow Obama to escape the damage an opposition GOP campaign might inflict until September, by which time it would be too late to fund and organize an effective national campaign.
GOP Contenders Turn to Illinois
[The Hill, 3/14/12] Polling in Illinois suggests an enormously fluid race, with 46 percent of likely voters saying they could change their minds before next Tuesday’s contests. The state’s open primary, Santorum’s momentum coming out of two Southern wins, Romney’s financial advantage, and Gingrich’s status in the race are just a few of the complicating factors.
Mormons Help Romney Win Hawaii
[Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 3/13/12] Early returns suggested the caucus might be a close call between Romney and Santorum, but the North Shore of Oahu--home to Brigham Young University (Hawaii) and a Mormon Temple--made the result a decisive one for Romney in the first-ever caucus in the state’s history.
Delegate System Gives Small States Clout at Convention
[New York Times, 3/13/12] The hefty trove of delegates given to two relatively small states like Alabama and Mississippi attests to a quirk of the nominating process of both parties: Democrats and Republicans give a state’s delegates based not just on population but also on party loyalty in previous elections.
Santorum Gets a Big Win and His Own Song NEW!
[National Journal, 3/14/12] Remember "I Am America," the catchy song that Herman Cain used during his campaign? The singer of that song, Krista Branch, is now backing Santorum with her new song, "Remember Who We Are."