Sunday, December 18, 2011

Will the "Mormon Problem" Sink Romney and the GOP

The power that has been ceded to Christianists and reality denying evangelical Christians in the GOP is stunning. Things have gotten to the point where unless one denies evolution, pretends the earth is 6,000 years old, actively and openly hates LGBT citizens, and engages in the religious psychobabble of the evangelicals - who as was noted in a recent post have the lowest IQ and educational levels of all Christians - one cannot get traction as a candidate for office. Mitt Romney is a case in point. There are many reasons that one might find for not supporting Romney, but obsessing over his religious affiliation should not be one of them. Yet with the Kool-Aid drinking crowd, the fact that Romney is a Mormon trumps all else. Including the fact that he's likely the most electable of the occupants of the GOP presidential clown car. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this phenomenon. Here are highlights:

The Mormon issue has reared its unattractive head in Iowa. Newt Gingrich’s Iowa political director, Craig Bergman, told a McClatchy Newspapers focus group last Wednesday, before he was hired by the campaign, that “a lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon. There’s a thousand pastors ready to do that.” For this, Newt pink-slipped him Tuesday.

Only in politics do you get fired for telling the truth. Note that Bergman did not say he believed this about Mormonism; he was merely stating a fact. Many evangelicals have serious issues with Romney’s Mormon faith, and you can expect them to voice them if Romney becomes the Republican nominee.

Judd Saul, a Tea Party activist and Iowa voter at the focus group, was even more blunt: evangelicals, he said, “won’t vote for a Mormon.” Polk County GOP co-chairman Dave Funk told the group that Romney would not have any coattails if he were the nominee because he wouldn’t “turn out 3 million evangelicals to vote in every school board and local election.”

Polls support this contention. Alan Cooperman, a research director at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, pointed out to me that in the latest Pew Research poll, there are “really high negatives for Romney among white evangelicals.” The Dec. 13 poll found that among white evangelical Protestants who say they are very likely to vote in a GOP primary, 18 percent say there is no chance they would vote for Newt Gingrich. For Romney, the figure is 35 percent.

David Lane of Iowa’s Pastors and Pews, which mobilizes the evangelical vote, told me bluntly, “Eighty percent of evangelicals will not vote for Romney in a contested primary, and 20 to 30 percent will stay home or go third party in the general election because of the Mormon issue and because they see him as an advocate of abortion and gay marriage.”

[S]ocial conservative and evangelical leaders in Iowa maintain that the primary issue with Romney is his flip-flopping and lack of a core belief system. But considering that Newt is an Olympic level flip-flopper—but still garnering significant evangelical support—this doesn't quite add up.

Romney told the Des Moines Register last week that religion or spirituality should not play a role in the election process. Perhaps it shouldn’t, but all too obviously it will.

Years ago the GOP establishment helped create the Christian Right Frankenstein monster within the Party and their cynical willingness to compromise principle (and reject knowledge and intelligence) for short term advantage continues to haunt them.

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