GREENVILLE, S.C. — Stan Craig, a Vietnam veteran and fundamentalist Baptist preacher, winces at the idea of a female president.
Yet he hesitated when he was asked recently to make a hypothetical choice between Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
"I probably would cast my vote for Michele," Craig said.
His thinking: Romney is Mormon. Mormons, in Craig's view, are not Christian.
As Romney is joined by another Mormon seeking the Republican presidential nomination — former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. — the inevitable question has arisen: Will their religion deter voters, particularly conservative evangelicals who form a key voting bloc of the Republican primary base?
Members of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the formal name of the Mormon church, consider the Book of Mormon another gospel of Christ. Many conservative evangelicals consider it incompatible with the Bible, and Mormonism a "false religion."
In Iowa and South Carolina, where many Republican voters are born-again Christians, Mormonism could be an obstacle, but one that could be overcome if the weak economy trumps other concerns.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an evangelical Christian who has leapt to the front of the Republican pack in recent polls, benefits from this hostility. In a recent poll, Gallup found that older Republicans and those living in the South showed strong support for Perry, at or near 40 percent. Religious Republicans favored Perry over Romney by almost 2--1.