TAMPA, Fla. – Arkansans attending the Republican National Convention this week said that there support for Mitt Romney is not diminished by his Mormon religion.
“Regardless of his church, he is pro-life, a family man and shares a lot of values that Arkansans hold,” said state Rep. Jason Rapert, R-Conway.
Rapert, an ordained minister with the Sanctuary of Hope Church, said that those positions stand in stark contrast to President Barack Obama. Add those to economic concerns, and Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints becomes a “very, very low-intensity issue,” he said.
The Romney campaign sought this week to bolster his credentials as a man of faith, particularly to evangelical Christians from the South.
Four years ago, Arkansas Republicans backed former Gov. Mike Huckabee for president. The favorite son, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister, won 60.5 percent of the primary vote while Romney finished a distant third with 13.5 percent.
Ahead of the primary, Huckabee had questioned Romney’s religion in an attempt to sway evangelicals. At one point he penned an article that asked, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”
Huckabee addressed the 2012 convention saying that Romney would do better than Obama as a leader of the nation. And, he delivered a message to fellow evangelicals that they should support Romney.
Without mentioning Mormonism, Huckabee said Obama’s support of gay marriage and his views on abortion made him the wrong choice for evangelicals.
“I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country,” Huckabee said.
Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said that is the message that Arkansas delegates will take forward.
“We will look to Romney and his accomplishments rather than the name of the church he attends,” he said.
Webb acknowledged that there may be a “slight concern” among Southern evangelicals and conservatives about voting for a Mormon, but it shouldn’t keep them away from the polls.
“I don’t think it will have an impact on the election,” he said.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said that there was a concern among evangelicals early on but as the country has gotten to know Romney they have learned he is a person of integrity.
“It becomes a lot less of an issue,” Boozman said.
That is how Maezeatta Ramsey, an alternate delegate from Fayetteville, sees it.
“I’m a Christian Baptist and his religion and mine are different. But he is a good moral man, a good family man, and his perspective is in the right place. I don’t know what Obama is,” Ramsey said.