So many great questions! I'm not sure I can speak to all of them, but I'm sure you'll get some other responses
I am wondering what is a good way to broach this topic with someone in the bible belt? () If this person is more monogamously inclined but also wants to continue dating other people, could that be a good "in" for a poly relationship? I have talked with other men about the positive side of poly and usually been given mad props.
I would be cautious about assuming that someone casually dating more than one person may be open to poly. If only for the reason that assuming leads to big communication gaps. If someone identifies as monogamous, they may not be willing to take the leap from casual dating to maintaining actual relationships with multiple people, or be willing to accept you pursuing them.
Oh another thing. I have a job that will be in the public eye a bit and it's a fairly conservative culture. Is there a chance I may blow my career exploring this lifestyle? Or could I prevent that to a large extent by just screening potentials very very well?
Yup, there's definitely the potential for people to discriminate against you if you are openly poly. It's not a protected "orientation" like being gay so if you're fired, evicted, or lose custody over it, you may have an uphill battle overcoming any discrimination. That being said, this is not the experience everywhere in the world, depends on where you're from and what the laws are. I don't intend to be all "heavy" about it, many people live openly poly with no issue. There are stories out there about employers and the courts using the poly lifestyle as a reason to deem someone unfit, but you would have to perhaps do some research to see what poly issues, if any, came up in your area.
One more question if you don't mind! Is there a good way to tell whether someone's interest in this lifestyle is from living consciously and desiring to be generous with love - or whether it's just very cleverly hidden commitment issues?
I'm not sure someone with major commitment issues could deal with being poly, I can't really speak to this one though - perhaps someone else can jump in? I only know that poly in very simple terms is having multiple relationships, meaning potentially multiple commitments.
That's just my two cents, hope I was able to help! Welcome to the forums, hope you find the support and answers you seek!