Get ready for big twist in Mormon coverage

As Mitt Romney inches closer to the GOP nomination, we are nearing the point at which the mainstream press -- especially Comedy Central -- begins to realize that it's time to cover a different Mormon story. Why? In large part because the invaluable team at the Pew Research Center has released a detailed blast of data showing that GOP voters are pretty much ready to back the man (who has become the Republican Al Gore, the man who excites few but repels few). The New York Times coverage of the poll contains almost all of the basics, starting right at the beginning:

Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith will most likely cost him support in the primaries, but even Republicans with reservations about his religion would rally to his side in a general election against President Obama, according to a poll released Wednesday. ...

According to the poll, the greatest resistance to Mr. Romney among Republicans comes from white evangelical Protestants, about half of whom said the Mormon religion is not a Christian faith. ... They are a big chunk of the Republican base and a major factor in the early nominating states of Iowa and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, white Catholics and white mainline Protestants favor Romney over the other GOP candidates, in part for theological reasons. About two-thirds of the Catholics and mainliners said that they believe that Mormonism is Christian (as opposed to the stances taken by their churches).

The key in this story, however, is that evangelicals clearly would rather vote for a moderate Mormon than an articulate liberal Christian -- President Barack Obama.

... (If) Mr. Romney was the Republican nominee this time, the antipathy toward Mr. Obama would trump religious concerns even for white evangelicals who express concerns about the Mormon Church, according to the poll. Even among those who said the Mormon religion is not Christian, 89 percent said they would vote for Mr. Romney, and 7 percent for Mr. Obama.

Gregory Smith, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center, said, “Among Republicans, the same people who have the greatest doubts about Mormonism are the same people who are the strongest critics of Barack Obama.”

For me, the key words in this story were "among Republicans."

By now, pretty much everyone knows where the white evangelicals stand on Romney and Obama. This new Pew poll only updates the old normal. In the online summary, what jumped out at me was that only 43 percent of the Democrats polled knew that Romney was a Mormon. The poll also didn't single out voters that identified themselves as independents/swing voters.

That's where the action is going to be in the very near future. At some point, the attention of the mainstream press (including Comedy Central) will swing from focusing on all of the strange reasons that evangelicals clash with Mormonism and will begin focusing on all of the totally logical reasons that normal people -- like independents and ethnic Democrats -- think Mormonism is rather strange, irrational or simply hilarious.

The primaries are coming, which means it's about time for the big switch. It's almost time to focus on the end game. At that point, look for another blast of Mormon coverage. I predict less coverage of the Trinity and more coverage of, well, underwear and other cultural issues.

Please respect our Commenting Policy