It's lovely to think we're all egalitarian enough to keep a candidate's religious beliefs out of our political decisions, but let's face it -- people do weigh it as a factor and Romney's Mormonism matters, very much so. To tell you the truth, it bothers me.
I often see it likened to Kennedy's Catholicism but the Catholic faith is a mainstream religion. The controversy around Kennedy centered more on precedent than the tenets of the faith and it actually helped him win votes. Take for example my ex-inlaws. They were staunch Republicans and excrutiatingly conservative. The old man was a John Bircher. But they were also devout Catholics and they voted for Kennedy, solely because of his faith. They loathed his politics but they wanted a Catholic president.
The Mormon religion is on the fringes and has so few adherents that they're often confused with Jehovah's Witnesses by the average Jake. There won't be any crossover voting because people think it's about time for a Mormon to be president. As a practical matter, many who might have supported him will withhold votes because of it.
For myself, I wouldn't vote for Romney for a whole lot of reasons that have nothing to do with his religion. He's a lying, snake oil salesman who slithers in wherever he thinks he can accrue power and money for himself. His election to governor was one of the reasons I left Massachusetts. His election was a fluke enabled by the Democratic machine having put up the lamest opponent possible and believe me when I tell you that he didn't forgo a shot at a second term because he was running for president. He's running for president because he didn't have snowball's chance in hell to get re-elected. His administration was a disaster, evidenced by the trouncing his Lt. Governor received at the polls despite a mudslide of negative press against her Democratic opponent going into election day.
However, if I did support him otherwise, his faith would make a difference. It's not that I'm religious. I believe in a higher universal power but I don't subscribe to any particular faith. I don't think religion should be a factor and I wouldn't have a problem with electing a Baptist or a Buddhist or even a moderate Muslim who supported a political platform I could stand beside. But Mormons trouble me.
The polygamy doesn't bother me. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with consenting adults living together, but forced marriages of underage teenagers does. Rampant child abuse and abandonment does. And the extreme patriarchy of the church's heirarchy does. Their Supreme Leader, whom they refer to as President, doesn't just hold the authority for the church. He's considered to be "entitled to receive revelation for not only the Church, but the entire world."
Furthermore, a religion that has been forced to cloak their practices in secrecy for centuries to avoid public ridicule, not to mention legal prosecution seems to me to have bred a culture of deceit within the practitioners of the faith. Just looking at the legal troubles of one of Romney's big financial backers, would suggest that the Mormons troubling history of child abuse and deceit is not exactly a thing of the past.
Maybe it shouldn't, but if I'm to be honest, Romney's Mormonism does matter to me. I have to believe it will matter even more to those far less open-minded than myself.