Forty-three percent (43%) of American voters say they would never even consider voting for a Mormon Presidential candidate. Only 38% say they would consider casting such a vote while 19% are not sure (see crosstabs). Half (53%) of all Evangelical Christians say that they would not consider voting for a Mormon candidate.

Overall, 29% of Likely Voters have a favorable opinion of Romney while 30% hold an unfavorable view.  Most of those opinions are less than firmly held. Ten percent (10%) hold a very favorable opinion while 11% have a very unfavorable assessment. Among the 41% with no opinion of Romney, just 27% say they would consider voting for a Mormon.

It is possible, of course, that these perceptions might change as Romney becomes better known and his faith is considered in the context of his campaign. Currently, just 19% of Likely Voters are able to identify Romney as the Mormon candidate from a list of six potential Presidential candidates. ~Rasmussen

Wow.  If this is accurate, 43% of the population would just be lost in any national general election in which Romney would run, and my guess is that they would mostly come from the Republican side of the fence.  The Democrats must be salivating at the unlikely prospect of a Romney nomination (though they would, of course, denounce sectarianism and religious prejudice even as they were reaping the benefits).  You can expect the 527s allied with his opponents in the primaries will be making a lot of noise about “unelectability.”  The candidates themselves will pretend that they are above the prejudice of the mob, but they will probably say coded things to make the same point: “We need a nominee who will unite America, and we need a nominee who can compete across the country.” 

People talk up the comparisons with JFK in 1960, but the right comparison for Romney might be Al Smith in 1928.  Would another generation make a Mormon candidate acceptable?  Possibly, if they become a much larger presence in national life and more people come into contact with them on a regular basis, but I suspect that there will be continuing opposition that is more deeply-seated than the old hostility to Catholic candidates.  It might be worth pointing out that there has still never been a Catholic Republican nominee for President, which might be attributed to the fact that Catholics have only recently been coming over to the GOP in larger numbers, but it might also be a sign that Catholic candidates on GOP tickets think they will be unable to succeed on the national stage.  

Now I’m not a political strategist by trade (but I play one at this blog), but I have seen enough of these polls to know that Romney’s 30% unfav rating before most people even know that he’s a Mormon (and this when a huge percentage of the population would never consider voting for a Mormon) is almost certain political death on the national stage.  Losing half of the evangelicals right off the bat is doom for any GOP candidate for President.  That’s not a guess–this is a reality of the dynamics of Republican primaries across the South, West and Midwest. 

The activists, leaders and NROniks can keep telling themselves that Romney is the social conservatives’ friend and ally and expect that this will make all the difference, but these anti-Mormon attitudes seem pretty powerful.  Romney can save himself some stress and a lot of time and work if he just bails out now.  No one could blame him for not wanting to try to scale an insurmountable obstacle.