Rick Santorum’s decisive win in Louisiana came with exit polls showing 23% of voters citing “strong moral character” as the candidate quality that mattered most. Santorum won 71% of their support - not surprising given his long-standing stress on ethical issues. But these same “morality voters” expressed a two-to-one preference for Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney – 13% to just 6%.
Why would they select the thrice-married, scandal plagued, House-censured former Speaker over an exemplary family man with 43 years of marriage, sixteen grandchildren, and a long business career shockingly free of ethical taint?
Some voters appear to hold Romney’s Mormon faith against him, but core principles of pluralism demand acknowledgement that theological disagreements don’t amount to bad character. Meanwhile, doctrinal differences haven’t stopped Mitt Romney and millions of other Mormons from living productive, patriotic and deeply moral lives.