By Obed Manuel
Opinion & Copy Editor
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …”
While this creates the separation of church and state, it does not mean the public can be told to disregard religion when partaking in the democratic process.
This has created a somewhat difficult campaign process for Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
Romney lost the Alabama and Mississippi primaries to a surging Rick Santorum. According to exit polls conducted by Edison Research, in both states 83 percent of voters identified themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. Newt Gingrich took 31 percent of that population, while Santorum took 36 percent.
According to BuzzFeed, Romney’s campaign and super PAC spent $2.5 million in both Alabama and Mississippi, whereas Santorum spent just under $800,000, and Gingrich spent approximately $878,000. Romney still holds an overwhelming delegate lead over Santorum, outnumbering his second place opponent’s count by two to one.
Romney’s inability to win over religious conservatives opens questioning of the inevitability of his success, in the eyes of Republican voters.
The same Edison Research exit poll from March 13 showed that among conservative voters who feel their candidate should share the same religious beliefs, Romney only had 26 percent of the vote from those two states.
A Gallup poll from 2009 showed that 49 percent of Republican Party members consider themselves to be religious. Granted, Romney will have support from those among the 49 percent, but for now, they still have conservative alternatives.
Speaking from personal experience, the conservative religious mindset is one of mistrust. New members whose known pasts are not seen in the most positive light are sometimes ostracized or treated as unworthy members.
And when considering presidential candidates, simple talk of Romney’s past and more liberal political leanings is enough for Romney to be ruled out of consideration by religious conservatives.
Romney’s Mormon faith has been a topic of discussion since his 2008 run. This is another aspect of his candidacy that could keep him from gaining solidarity among the Republican base, even if he wins the nomination.
The irony is that the same religious freedom Romney has vowed to protect is what has unfairly had such a lasting effect on his political aspirations.
Perhaps he is the best opponent the Republican Party can produce against President Barack Obama, but in a time when conservative rhetoric is at a new peak, it may just leave Romney looking to the sky for divine intervention.