Illinois lynched the first Mormon to run for president, but 168 years later it may have sealed the GOP nomination for LDS scion Mitt Romney. If so, it will have been because Republicans in the Land of Lincoln are more moderate than their peers in Michigan and Ohio, big Midwestern states that barely ended up in the Romney column this year. Fewer consider themselves "very conservative"; fewer consider abortion the most important issue of the campaign.
White evangelicals in Illinois are more likely to be of the moderate megachurch variety typical of the suburban Chicago grandaddy of megachurches, Willow Creek. Thirty-nine percent of them voted for Romney, as compared to 35 percent in Michigan and 30 percent in Ohio. Non-evangelicals are more likely to be moderate Methodist types. They gave 54 percent of their votes to Romney, as opposed to 45 percent in Michigan and 44 percent in Ohio. In 2008, Obama had the home-state advantage; nonetheless, it's telling that he was the choice of 15 percent of Republicans in Illinois, versus 10 percent in Michigan and eight percent in Ohio. And 37 percent of evangelicals, versus 33 percent in Michigan and 27 percent in Ohio.
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum is stuck with the task of revving up a pedal-to-the-metal evangelical base that is just not big enough in most of the states that lie ahead. Louisiana, in four days, won't change the narrative, regardless of how much he wins by. Nor does it help when he's got to disown cheerleading by zealous pastors like Rev. Dennis Terry, who got his flock at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church whooping it up by preaching:
Listen to me. If you don’t love America, if you don’t like the way we do things I have one thing to say — get out! We don’t worship Buddha! I said we don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Muhammad, we don’t worship Allah, we worship God, we worship God’s son Jesus Christ.”
According to CBN's David Brody, that's just "a good example of how the mainstream media just doesn’t understand the evangelical worldview. Yes the language was strong and bold from the pulpit but reporters interpreted the words incorrectly by painting a much broader brush than what was intended." Santorum's problem is that the suburban Republicans who gave Romney his 12-point victory in Illinois tend to interpret them the same way.