The Three Reasons I Think Romney Didn’t Win Iowa:

  • He’s managed his campaign in a way to make him appear like a flip-flopper, and as lacking meaningful convictions. To many, he appears to be a blatant opportunist. I’m not saying these things are true — only that they appear to many to be true.  To me, Romney does not come across as an authentic Mormon OR Conservative.
  • He managed his Iowa campaign in a way to make him appear as if he “went negative”. What’s worse, his negative ads appeared to many to be distortions.
  • He doesn’t communicate in an inspirational, Reagan-like way.

For me, his Mormonism doesn’t crack the top 3. If anything, the Mormon thing has helped him get much more media attention than he likely otherwise would have.

My 2 cents.


  1. john f. January 4, 2008 at 11:43 am - Reply

    I understand the tendency not to want to assume that people did not vote for Huckabee because the competent, qualified candidate, Mitt Romney, was a Mormon, but it is worth looking at some numbers:

    “More than eight in 10 Huckabee supporters said they are born again or evangelical Christians, compared to less than half of Romney’s. Nearly two-thirds of Huckabee backers also said it was very important that their candidate share their religious beliefs, compared to about one in five of Romney’s.”

    It’s a long shot to say that Romney’s Mormonism does not make your top three. I would think it to be a primary reason which the other reasons you list might follow as a pretextual rationale.

    Why do you beleive that Evangelical Christians did not vote for Huckabee because Romney was a Mormon?

  2. Todd Wood January 4, 2008 at 11:43 am - Reply

    The second blog news, I have heard today on this.


    If LDS authorities were more real in their religious “doctrinal” conviction before America in 2008, I think it would help Romney.

    People get tired real quick of image and PR and frustrated over what language really means.

  3. John Dehlin January 4, 2008 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Yeah…Romney and Hillary’s loss (according to NBC last night) might be interpreted as, “People are tired of corporate, stiff spin.”

  4. David H. Sundwall January 4, 2008 at 11:49 am - Reply

    I think your three reasons are why he’ll have trouble nationally.

    But I think the exit polls show that Huckabee captured the Evangelical vote, especially the Evangelical vote who care about a candidate’s religion. Evangelicals were 60% of the vote last night, up from 39% in 2000.

    I don’t think it’s useful to dwell on it (for too long) but I’m afraid Mormonism made a difference.

    But I think you’re points are true as the race moves beyond Iowa.

  5. Anna G. January 4, 2008 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    I agree with John–I don’t think Romney’s religion was in the top 3 reasons he didn’t win in Iowa.

    My guess is that, even in the mind of Iowa evangelicals, the race was NOT “evangelical Christian guy” vs. “cultist Mormon guy” Rather, it was “authentic, earnest, and driven-by-Christianity guy” vs. “manufactured, pandering, and not-genuinely-driven-by-religion guy.”

  6. John Dehlin January 4, 2008 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Yeah. I also kinda feel that outspending Huckabee 8 to 1 in Iowa should have helped offset the Evangelical thing, no?

  7. Clay January 4, 2008 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Off-topic, sort of, but who else thought Obama came out looking incredible last night? Is it possible that America could elect a black president? I must confess I kind of like Obama.

  8. jnilsson January 4, 2008 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Iowa is one of the least Mormon states in the U.S., and very few people there would know Mormons in their daily interactions, versus other states in the West like California where about a third of the state’s residents know a Mormon, although I can’t remember the survey where I read that. I agree that it was Iowans’ unfamiliarity with a rootless (come on, where is Mitt from anyway, Michigan, Massachusetts, Utah, the Mormon colonies in Mexico?) Mormon that led them to vote for the guy who made Arkansas friendlier to the Walton family when Clinton headed for Washington.

  9. J. Nelson-Seawright January 4, 2008 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    I think religion mattered, but I think there were deeper problems. Huckabee seemed more honest — and won, by a wide margin, the voters who said they cared about honesty in politics. John’s three things also mattered.

    The big obstacle that Romney’s got, though, is more fundamental and harder to overcome: he doesn’t seem likeable to voters. For many voters, he seems cold and impersonal. They just don’t like him as a person. This has shown up in surveys over and overs during the last few months as people have gotten to recognize Romney. And I think it’s the final reason he’s likely to lose. Compared with all the other plausible candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Huckabee), Romney just lacks an interesting and charismatic personality.

  10. Dan January 4, 2008 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    John, I’m still sticking with my prediction that Huckabee will win the Republican nomination (and I hope he does because my candidate of choice will CREAM him in the generals).

    As to why Romney lost in Iowa, I see two major reasons:

    1) Many people (including myself) do not see Mitt as genuine or authentic, much less somebody that they could ever relate to.

    He is no Ronald Reagan and is seen by many to be one who changes his views to pander to the far right. This was a risky bet, one with which I considered foolhardy, because the far right do place importance on religious conviction and affiliation. The data in the Iowa exit polls bear that out.

    As soon as a “one of us” evangelical came along with some momentum, they abandoned ship and flocked to Huckabee. I think Romney would have been much wiser to court the independents, a crowd which is growing bigger and bigger and more influential.

    2) I do believe that Mitt’s religion played a factor in Iowa, and I believe it will play a factor in other states, though probably less in independent states like NH. Many evangelicals still harbor a bias against Mormonism, and it appears that many of them have abandoned Romney for Huckabee since he’s more “one of them.” Then there are the independents that might question whether Mitt is truly independent enough from his church.

    In the end, point #1 will ultimately cost him the nomination in my opinion. Point #2 will cost him in states that have large numbers of Republican evangelicals.

    For me, yesterday was AWESOME!!! And, no, I’m not for Huckabee.

  11. Dan January 4, 2008 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    I agree with Clay on Obama. While I am an Obama supporter, I have to say that his victory speech was one of the most electrifying I can ever remember seeing. Not that you vote for somebody based on how well they give speeches, but something about Obama seems to inspire so many with hope for the future.

  12. Dwarik January 4, 2008 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    i think with huckabee’s surge he appeared more and more threatened and going negative only reinforced the fabricated image.

  13. Paula January 4, 2008 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    I think that you’ve got the reasons covered pretty well John. Religion did matter too, but it seems to me that it was more that Huckabee is evangelical and no one else is. And I’m delighted with how Obama did, and with his speech. I’d really like to be excited over the first woman to be a viable candidate for president, but her speech last night was one good example of why that’s hard to do– she has all the speaking skills of a block of wood. I really hope that we’re to the point that we can elect a black person to the presidency for many reasons. One of those reasons is that I think it would great increase our image in the eyes of rest of the world.

  14. Michael January 4, 2008 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    I think Romney is hindered by a few things one of which is this “soft biggotry” aganst mormans. Although I think that could be over come if he where a better polition. To be an effective poltiion you have to do two things well: 1) Come up with a vision or message that will ressinate. 2)you have to be a salesman and teacher. Romney has struggled with both these things. I think earier in the campange he was more effecttive, but he was thrown off horrably with the intensity of the Morman question and the rise of Huckabee.

    I think that Romney is and would be an effective leader/executive and he has the credentials and skills to be a successful leader, but he lacks the political skills so clearly evidenced by both Huckabee and Obama.

  15. mc January 4, 2008 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Please go back and look at your previous postings and ask yourself if you aren’t biased for Romney simply because of his religion. That’s as incriminating as suggesting that evangelicals carried Huckabee to victory in Iowa.

    Romney had all the advantages but he still pulled a Bob Dole when it counted. Iowa doesn’t represent all of America but it’s a poor start for the Mormon Wonder Boy with Presidential Hair.

    All of the analyst on Fox News (the GOP network?) clearly stated religion was not the issue. Likeability is it. Mitt has all the likeability of your Stake President sitting aloof up there on the stand in whatever meeting he’s presiding over. Gee, I wonder why.

  16. jayspec January 4, 2008 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    I am going to stick with the idea that evangelical Iowans were afraid of Romney because of his religion. C’mon, negative stuff about us Mormons is preached over just about every evangelical Church pulpit in America on a regular basis.

    You don’t think the preachers said something last Sunday????? These folks play follow the leader just as well as Mormons do.

  17. matt howell January 4, 2008 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Romney has the leadership skills and could be effective but I agree with all of you, he is unlikeable and seems not very genuine. I think he will not win the nomination and I think the biggest reason is his pandering to each side. He’s not genuine. As for his religious conviction. I wonder how “active” he really is. Seems to play the part well, but he probably worked out a deal with Salt Lake that he gets full active status by going once every six months. He probably worked out a tithing deal to like 1%. Based on his net worth that is a lot.

  18. […] good friend John Dehlin at Mormon Stories weighs in: The Three Reasons I Think Romney Didn’t Win […]

  19. John Hamer January 4, 2008 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    I think Romney’s failure illustrates something bigger than his significant personal shortcomings as a candidate.

    For half a century — since the Ezra Taft Benson era attempts at a building an alliance between Mormons and Southern Segregations against blacks and civil rights — Mormons have tried desperately to ally politically with Christian fundamentalists. Conservative Mormons argue that the logic is there and that both “values” groups hate all the same things: women’s rights, social libertarianism, gays, science, etc.

    “The enemy of my enemy is my friend!” plead Mormon conservatives, without ever getting their would-be suitors at all. Christianist fundamentalists, in their quest to distort the US constitution and make America a theocracy, hate all those things certainly…but they also hate Mormons. Like Islamists abroad, Christianists don’t want freedom of religion. They want the government to impose a religion on America: their religion — their narrow (and frankly uninformed) interpretation of Christianity. For these theocrats, Mormons are as much the enemy as self-realized women and gays and they always will be.

    Because Mormons will always be a minority religion in the US, their true allies are the people who believe in freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is tolerance for pluralism through the separation of church and state. In the wake of Romney’s defeat, conservative Mormons need to wake up and understand that their natural allies are secularists, agnostics, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and other religious minorities. As such, they need to stop promoting the right of government to dictate religious values and proscribe social norms and they need to start promoting social libertarianism. In short, they need to stop gussying themselves up shamelessly for the boy who will never take them to the prom and recognize that as a minority their true allies are the members of the Democratic coalition and they ought to vote accordingly.

  20. thad January 4, 2008 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    John, nice spot in the Herald Journal Thursday. :)

    On Romney…look, …the next president is going to be a democrat. [Period]

    In today’s context Romney’s decision to run in 2008 was near-sighted and a huge strategic failure.

    His fight is futile, and ultimately will cast bad light on the church with the negative publicity it will draw.

    However, the expensive contest should be good entertainment.

    A huge Thank You to Iowa!!! It’s refreshing to see real Americans stand up and shout.

  21. Michael January 5, 2008 at 7:35 am - Reply

    What where they shouting?
    I think both Obama & Huckabee are weak on real substance and will have to produce something more then populous oratory – maybe?

  22. Eric January 5, 2008 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Great discussion, everyone.

    As a registered Democrat, I think John Hamer hit the nail on the head.

    Medved at saw the Iowa numbers differently than some of your analysis. I recommend a quick read here:

    Title of his article: “Stop Lying About Huckabee and Evangelicals!”

    Seems convincing.

  23. John Dehlin January 5, 2008 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Yeah…Medved nailed it…

    “Predictably enough, most media commentators have totally misinterpreted the nature of Mike Huckabee’s big win in the Iowa GOP caucuses. Conventional wisdom says that he swept to victory based on overwhelming support from Evangelicals, but conventional wisdom is flat-out wrong. According to the exit polls used by major news networks, a majority of voters who described themselves as “evangelical” or “born again” Christians actually voted against Huckabee –with 54% splitting their support among Romney, McCain, Thompson and Ron Paul. Yes, Huckabee’s 46% of Evangelicals was a strong showing, but it was directly comparable to his commanding 40% of women, or 40% of all voters under the age of 30, or 41% of those earning less than $30,000 a year. His powerful appeal to females, the young and the poor make him a different kind of Republican, who connects with voting blocs the GOP needs to win back. He’s hardly the one-dimensional religious candidate of media caricature.

    It’s also idiotic and dishonest for observers to keep harping on anti-Mormon bigotry as the basis for Mitt Romney’s disappointing showing. Yeah, it’s true that 81% of Evangelicals voted against Romney— but 75% of ALL Iowa Republicans voted against him, so where is the big evidence of “anti-Mormon bigotry”? In other words, there’s only a 6% difference between his general rejection and his Evangelical rejection. There’s no evidence, in other words, that those who described themselves as “born again” or “evangelical” faced an especially tough time voting for a Mormon. Romney, after all, finished second among this group—as he finished second among the electorate in general. Among Evangelicals, Mormon Mitt beat John McCain, Fred Thompson and Ron Paul by a ratio of nearly two-to-one…a bigger, not smaller margin of victory over these other non-Mormon candidates than he managed to achieve in the electorate in general. The message ought to be obvious: the core issue was phoniness, not faith– and the religious and non-religious alike react badly to phoniness.”

    The point I was trying to make was…Romney’s outspending of Huckabee from 6 to 1 to 12 to 1 (depending on the number) should have been able to compensate for the 6% difference mentioned above, not to mention Huckabee’s unelectable name.

  24. thad January 5, 2008 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    In response to: “What are they shouting?”

    The shout wasn’t so much on the democratic side, there each candidate has roughly a third. They are united in tone and message.

    The big shout was in the GOP and I heard a resounding: “We see right through you!!!” – This time not everything in America is for sale.

    Why should anyone buy phony bologna when you can get real cold-cuts on the refer isle for a buck-O-five?

  25. John Hamer January 5, 2008 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    John D., I think your use of statistics is misleading: “it’s true that 81% of Evangelicals voted against Romney — but 75% of ALL Iowa Republicans voted against him”. Since a big majority (60%) of the Iowans who voted on the Republican side are Evangelicals, they make your “75% of all” number look similar to your 81% number.

    The split between Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals was actually pretty stark. Among the 60% of caucusing Iowa Republicans who call themselves born-again or evangelical 46% voted for Huckabee and only 19% voted for Romney. Of the 40% who don’t call themselves evangelical 33% voted for Romney and only 14% voted for Huckabee.

    Aside from non-Evangelical sand those who felt that it was either not very important or not important at all that the candidate share their religious beliefs, the only other groups that Romney beat Huckabee in were those who made more than $100k and those who were most worried about which candidate has the most experience and is most electabile in the general campaign.

  26. Ann January 5, 2008 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Amen, John Hamer. I take it a little further than you do, though: Mormons are deluding themselves that what they have a real relationship with the Religious Right. The reality is, Mormons are the easy lay when the bar closes at night. The Mormons put out for the RR, but they don’t get invited over for dinner with the parents.

  27. Michael January 5, 2008 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    I am not sure they were shouting anything. In the results I see people that responded to what sparkles and flatters. I see a lack of substance and critical thought. I see an electorate driven by emotional idealism.

  28. thad January 5, 2008 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Seriously, if Romney isn’t all about sparkle and flatter then who is?

    Critical Thought? How much did they spend and how big did they lose?

    Substance: Something that doesn’t change with the venue.

  29. Razorfish January 5, 2008 at 3:17 pm - Reply


    I respectfully disagree that Mormonism was not the single most important factor in Iowa on the Republican side. As soon as I heard that Evangelicals represented 60% of the Republican turnout, I knew Romney had zero chance.

    In Iowa anyway on the Republican side, religion trumps all others considerations. A Baptist preacher against a Mormon in a supercharged Evangelical voting arena: Mitt never had a chance.

    I was disgusted at how Huckabee blatently played the religious card in the race. Using wedge tactics by asking, “Don’t Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brothers” was a deliberate attempt to portray our theology as radioactive for Evangelicals.

    Huckabee’s tactics won’t play as well outside Iowa. Personally, I believe Huckabee is the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  30. Michael January 5, 2008 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    I will give you that much was made of Mitts appearence & seeming families protection and in that way he is the sparkle that I referred to. I will also agree that mitt has not been effective as a candidate, for reasons I have already stated in am earlier post. I do stand by by my assertion that a “soft bigotry” that was not publicly spoken or a firmed was at play in the event of Thursday. I also assert that both Huckabee & Obama have yet to be examined beyond their oratory and in the case of Obama especially, I don’t know if he will be.

  31. thad January 5, 2008 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    Michael, I respect you for standing up for your views and appreciate your engagement and dialog.

    Personally I am pleased with the top three democrats and will happily vote for whomever gets the nomination.

    John McCain is the only candidate I would really consider voting for in the GOP. Although I would really like to see Huckabee dismantle the IRS it’s not enough for my vote.

    Romney isn’t my guy, but it has nothing to do with his Mormonism. I wouldn’t support him if he were Catholic or anything else.

    Does anyone think that there is a reverse-bigotry with Romney? Meaning do you think Mormons support Romney just because he is a Mormon?

    According to my wife I have reached my per diem for blogging, so I will check back after New Hampshire.

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