When Mitt Romney was announced as the surprise winner of the Family Research Council Values Voter summit, there was an uproar.
Phillip Da Costa, a 39-year-old industrial engineer from Georgia wearing a Huckabee sticker on his jacket stomped into the lobby of the Washington Hilton.
"Scandalous, man," he screamed.
Another values voter, clean cut and portly, tried to calm him down by saying, "Ah, Romney is a good guy."
"No he’s not — he’s a Mormon," said Da Costa.
"Mormons believe in Jesus," said the other man.
"No they don’t. Not in our Jesus," said Da Costa.
I asked Da Costa why he was so upset.
"It was a fix," he said about the results of the straw poll, which put Romney ahead of the attendee favorite, Mike Huckabee. (Online voting was included in the final tally, which the group’s leaders said explained the discrepancy between the mood in the conference and the results flashed on the theater’s jumbo screens.) "Romney is a Mormon. He’s from Tax-achusetts. He was pro-abortion. Pro-gay civil unions. This is a scandal and a set-up. I will never follow these evangelical leaders again. We need new Christian leaders. They put their money before God. God will use me and others like me to righteously cast them out."
The Mormon question came up repeatedly at the conference. When I was standing in front of a booth at the conference selling a book about the Mormon religion called "Mormons: History, Cultur, Beliefs" Ann De La Mora, an ex-ray technician from Bellmore New York, came up to me and asked suspiciously, "You a Mormon?"
She said she wanted to know what Mormons actually believed in, and said she probably wouldn’t vote for Romney because of his religion. "I want to know who he believes Jesus Christ is," she said.
I asked the guy working the booth, Dan Thomas, a representative of White Horse books, what people were saying about Romney.
"They like what he says," said Thomas, "But there is definitely a resistance."