Mitt Romney has an evangelical problem because evangelicals have a Mitt Romney problem.
This is a troubling concern for the GOP frontrunner for the 2012 nomination. Evangelicals have been a dominant constituency in Republican politics since Ronald Reagan assembled his winning coalition of fiscal, foreign policy, and moral conservatives back in 1980. Ever since then, successful GOP candidates for the White House have made sure to have this group on their side. This is especially important for anyone approaching South Carolina, where evangelical Christians are especially well represented (60 percent of likely voters). But the former Massachusetts governor is having a hard time winning them over.
It's not because of his Mormon religion that Bible believers are wary of the candidate. That was so 2008. They're over it. After three years of Barack Obama, having a Mormon in the White House doesn't look so bad to them.
Evangelicals are wary because they are looking for a reliable conservative to replace the sitting president, not someone who will cut deals with Democrats, Massachusetts-style. They want someone who will take the side of the unborn, support biblical and traditional marriage, and preserve what remains of our moral environment. They want a champion who will reign in government spending, cut the debt, and free up business to get the economic engine turning again.
In short, they want someone who will lift the government burden from their backs so they can go about their business in the godliness of saints and the dignity of free human beings (1 Timothy 2:2). They don't want government to be God; they just want it to preserve us in our liberty to do God's work in the context of a morally supportive and decent society.
Mitt Romney has sent the right signals on all these questions, but evangelicals aren't sure that isn't just sweet talk. But regardless of their doubts, if Romney is the nominee evangelical voters will brave wind, sleet, and snow to vote for him rather than suffer four more years of America-suppressing foreign policy, growth-stunting economic policy, and liberty-snatching healthcare policy.