WASHINGTON -- If Mitt Romney does manage to limp to the nomination sometime this spring or summer, the former Massachusetts governor may face an enthusiasm problem, if South Carolina exit polls are any indication.
Thirty-one percent of people who said they voted for Newt Gingrich said that if Romney ultimately takes the nomination, they would not support him in general election. The same was true of 40 percent of Ron Paul backers.
Among all voters, a full 12 percent said that come November, they will not be backing Romney.
Whether they stick by their pledge or not, the promise to stay home speaks to a lack of excitement for Romney, at best, and outright hostility toward him at worst. Even if voters do come out on election day merely to cast a ballot against President Obama, the lack of enthusiasm means few volunteers, fewer donors and fewer conversations with neighbors.
In South Carolina, at least, much of that standoffishness may have to do with religion, and particularly Romney's Mormon faith. An exit poll found that of the 60 percent of voters who cared a great deal about religion, 46 percent backed Gingrich and 19 went with Romney. For the rest of voters, Romney won, 39 to 32 percent.