ByÂ Ralph Z. Hallow-The Washington Times
Mr. Cain on Monday became the first ofÂ Mr. Romneyâ€™s nine declared and potential nomination rivals to say publicly and explicitly something long whispered: namely, that the former Massachusetts governorâ€™s Mormonism is an obstacle too big to overcome in the most solidly Republican region in the country. The South has a high concentration of evangelical Protestants, many of whom doubt the legitimacy of the Church ofÂ Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
â€œI know the South, and you have to win the South.Â Mitt Romney did not win it when he ran againstÂ John McCainâ€ in the 2008 primaries, saidÂ Mr. Cain. â€œThe reason he will have a difficult time winning the South this time is because when he ran the first time, he did not do a good job of communicating his religion. It doesnâ€™t bother me, but I know it is an issue with a lot of Southerners.â€
Mr. Cain, a retired corporate executive who made a career out of rescuing dying companies, including the faltering Godfatherâ€™s pizza chain, argued that a Republican candidate needs to win Southern states.
â€œIf you donâ€™t win South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, you canâ€™t win the nomination. And then you canâ€™t win the presidency,â€ he said.
However,Â Mr. Romney is polling well in the South, according to the latest round of surveys.
A just-releasedÂ American Research Group poll in South Carolina, one of the first four states on the official primary calendar, hasÂ Mr. Romneyleading, with support from 25 percent of the sample of 600 likely Republican primary voters.
Mr. Cain is fourth in the poll at 10 percent, behindÂ Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who has 13 percent.Â Mr. Cain andÂ Mrs. Bachmann turn out relatively large numbers of tea party activists for their get-acquainted events. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin placed second with 16 percent, even though the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee has remained mum about whether she will run.
In 2008,Â Mr. Cain supportedÂ Mr. Romney, himself a hugely successful businessman with a â€œturn-it-aroundâ€ reputation.Â Mr. Romney took over management of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when it looked as if it would run out of money before it even got started.
â€œI likeÂ Mitt. I supported him in the last presidential election,â€ saidÂ Mr. Cain, who softened his often booming baritone voice almost to a whisper. â€œI donâ€™t think he is going to be any stronger this time around againstÂ Barack Obama, even thoughÂ Obama has a terrible record.â€
The South is heavily populated with evangelicals, fundamentalists and other traditionalist-leaning Christians who widely considerÂ Mr. Romneyâ€™s church not to be a Christian sect. They claim it either denies or unrecognizably redefines such Christian doctrines as the Trinity, original sin, the atonement, the continuity of theÂ church and the canon of Scripture. Denouncing Mormonism is a staple of some Christian TV and radio programs and networks.
Mr. Cain, who has been polling in the high single digits among Republican voters in national polls, raised $2.6 million in the April-to-June reporting period, compared with $18 million raised byÂ Mr. Romney.
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