Everything in the exit polling breaks down much as you might expect, but one thing that continues to puzzle me is Romney’s strong performance among Catholic voters, which is not limited to South Carolina. As I mentioned earlier today, 38% of Catholics in the Nevada caucus supported him, and the same pattern has emerged in the earlier contests and in Florida polling. Among all Catholics in South Carolina’s primary, he got 24%, and 28% of weekly church-going Catholics backed him. Despite finishing a distant fourth overall, he placed second among weekly church-going Catholics. If there are numbers breaking down Romney’s Catholic support before his religion speech and after I would be very interested to see what they are, because I would wager a nice steak dinner that his support among Catholics increased significantly after that speech and remained strong ever since. My guess is that the themes he outlined in that speech did nothing to assuage the doubts and concerns of evangelicals, but it may very well have won over a substantial bloc of Catholic voters. In a strange way, the anti-Mormon problem for his candidacy may have started to boomerang and work to his advantage. Perhaps it benefits him by providing a kind of sympathy specifically from Catholics.
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