Jon Huntsman is Mormon.
In 2011, American voters remain prejudiced against Mormon candidates.
A recent Gallup poll showed that 22 percent of Americans won’t vote for their party’s candidate if he were Mormon. When US presidential elections are decided by just a few percentage points in swing states, 22 percent is a big number.
Moreover, if many Americans are hesitatant to support their own party’s candidate if he’s Mormon, why would they vote for a Mormon in the primaries?
A similar 2007 Gallup poll showed the same results. It revealed that 24 percent of Americans won’t vote for a Mormon candidate nominated by their own party.
That compares to only 12 percent for a Hispanic person, 11 percent for a woman, 7 percent for Jew, 5 percent for a black person, and 4 percent for a Catholic.
Fellow Mormon Mitt Romney, considered the frontrunner for the Republican Party, is likely aware of this.
He has made his strategy clear: avoid talking about his Mormon faith and go hard on economic issues.
Jon Huntsman looks to do the same. He already refers to his faith as his Mormon “heritage.” Like Romney, he’s going to campaign aggressively on the economy and jobs market. He may also bring up the extensive international experience he has.
His one unique strategy is conducting a “campaign on the high run road.” He said he won’t “run down someone’s reputation in order to run for the Office of President.” Huntsman likely hopes that given the acrimony of the current political scene, his civility would be welcomed.
However, if he were to sidestep religion completely, he may have trouble capturing the Christian (especially evangelical) vote.
Traditionally, the Christian vote has been a major asset to Republican candidates in the general election. During the Republican primaries, it often picks winners. For example, a big reason for George W. Bush’s political success was his ability to carry the Christian vote.
Indeed, when other candidates like Herman Cain talk about their personal Christian faith, what can Huntsman say?