Is Mitt Romney going to have trouble rounding up evangelicals because of their antipathy to his Mormon faith? The question has been hard to answer because so few survey researchers are including religious identity in their state polling for the general election. SurveyUSA is a rare exception, and its new Missouri poll suggests that, yes, Romney may have a problem.
Barack Obama is down by a single point in the state, which he lost also by a single point in 2008. But whereas back then he surrendered the evangelical vote to John McCain by 70-29, the margin for Romney now is just 58-35--a swing of 18 points towards the president. Among non-evangelicals, by contrast, he has given up 12 points. (Forty percent of voters in Missouri identify as evangelicals.)
Why should Obama have improved his standing with Missouri evangelicals while losing ground with non-evangelicals? Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Catholic who's down by nine points to just-nominated evangelical favorite Todd Akin, is doing significantly worse with evangelicals than Obama, losing them by 66-30.
In 1838, after non-Mormon vigilantes attacked Mormon settlers in northwest Missouri, Gov. Lilburn Boggs sent an order to the commander of the state militia saying that the Mormons "must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace." In this year's non-binding Missouri primary February 7, Rick Santorum destroyed Romney by 55-25.
By rights, Obama should be in big trouble in the Show-Me State. If it's in play this year, I'd say it's because anti-Mormonism is still alive and kicking.