If you're a spiritually sensitive exit poll geek like me, one of the little revelations of the 2008 GOP primary season was that Mitt Romney won as many evangelical votes in Florida as Mike Huckabee did: 31 percent (with John McCain trailing close behind at 28 percent). Moreover, Romney's evangelical total was almost equal to his non-evangelical total (32 percent). In other words, there was no Mormon Gap in Florida. The Mormon Gap, invented a couple of days ago at this blog's former site, is defined as the percentage-point difference between the evangelical and the non-evangelical vote for a given Mormon candidate. In South Carolina, the gap was 16 points (22-38), and it accounted for Romney's drubbing. Had evangelicals in the Palmetto State voted like non-evangelicals, Mitt would have prevailed, 38 percent to 35 percent.
But Florida's different, right? In Florida, evangelicals vote like non-evangelicals in Republican primaries. They live in the most diverse of Southern states, belong to less pedal-to-the-metal megachurches, take theological differences less to heart. In a word, they don't consider religious others so, well, other. And those others include Mormons.
Or maybe not. In the first substantial Florida survey done post-South Carolina, PPP finds a 17-point Mormon Gap: Romney is supported by 23 percent of evangelicals as opposed to 40 percent of non-evangelicals. That's an eight-point drop from his evangelical total in 2008, when he came in second to John McCain with 31 percent of the vote. If evangelicals had answered PPP the way non-evangelicals did, Romney would be five points up rather than six points down.
There's plenty of evidence that evangelicals vary from place to place in plenty of ways. But from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina to (apparently) Florida, they all seem to be declining to vote for the Mormon candidates (including John Huntsman in the Granite State) in comparably disproportionate numbers. And in both Iowa and Florida, they like Romney significantly less than they did the first time around. Like it or not.