New poll results from a national survey conducted by Lawrence Research in California indicates that 20 percent of people surveyed would never consider voting for a Mormon candidate — a number five times higher than for a Catholic (4 percent) or a Baptist (4 percent).

Yet pollster Gary Lawrence said the results don't mean such preferences will have as big an effect on actual voting as they might seem to indicate.

"If religion played a big role in the vote decision, more people could correctly identify candidates' religions," Lawrence said. "While 85 (percent) of voters have heard of Mitt Romney, only 41 (percent) know he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka Mormon, despite considerable publicity. Only 11 (percent) and 6 (percent) respectively know that Jon Huntsman Jr. and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are also Mormons."

According to recent Gallup polling, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and not necessarily Romney's faith, poses the biggest obstacle to Romney's candidacy.

Currently, Perry is polling at 38 percent among GOP voters — Romney is trailing him with 23 percent, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Despite Perry's commanding lead, some wonder if it's still too early to tell if Perry's numbers have staying power.

Ron Paul called Rick Perry the "candidate of the week," and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat said Perry is yet to be tested.

Political insiders are likewise skeptical about Perry's electability — "Many Republican insiders acknowledged Perry's appeal to conservatives but questioned his ability to win over independent voters," said a piece in the National Journal, which published poll results showing that 69 percent of GOP insiders thought Romney had a better chance of beating Barack Obama in a general election. Of Democratic insiders, 83 percent felt the same way.

As Politico noted over the weekend, it's "Decision time for GOP elites," as most Republicans with deep pockets will have to choose between Romney, a candidate who is likely more electable against Obama, and Perry, the one who excites the GOP base.

EMAIL: hboyd@desnews.com