You would think that given the fact that Jon Huntsman has done nothing but resign as Obama’s, I repeat – OBAMA’s, ambassador to China and that he has made virtually no move towards mounting a campaign, rumors of a Republican presidential run on his part might quickly fade. In many senses they have. But his resignation and the subsequent rumors have served to open the floodgates of Mormon talk once again. We documented, and documented, and documented again that story line last week and still it persists. Karl Rove insists the issue was overblown in 2008, and yet, given an opening, the press has jumped on it like it was the defining issue of 2012. Even Roll Call had to get into the act.
What is truly sad to me is that the latest round of focus on The Question has come largely from Utah and/or Mormon sources – well, there or the left. I suppose that I should not be surprised that the Salt Lake Tribune was all over it – in multiple stories. The SLTrib and the CJCLDS have not been friends for a while now, pretty much since they both got started. The Deseret News; however, is a friend of the CJCLDS and I have no idea why it would go there. (Interesting Huntsman rumors in the piece though.) Does the Daily Herald count? The fact that Salt Lake City television station KSL got into it is consistent with their coverage last time, but they seem to have less of an axe to grind than the SLTrib so I thought they might have settled down – guess not. The “Utah Policy” blog has always been a reliable effort from Utah precincts, so that blog’s discussion of the topic seemed a little surprising. I suppose that the large Mormon presence in Utah, and the continued political opposition that often arises between Mormons and non-Mormons in the state (liquor laws and other local issues) that the story certainly has more interest there than it does elsewhere. Therefore some coverage is perhaps justified – or at least understandable.
What’s not surprising is the continued discussion from the left. Jennifer Rubin said of Huntsman:
I’ve yet to find a single Republican office holder, former campaign adviser, or conservative activist who takes Huntsman seriously.
But the strategist is on to something. The buzz is entirely a creation of liberal media outlets and cable TV talking heads within the Beltway.
Of course it is – Huntsman provides them with a mechanism by which to try and define the Republican narrative on their terms. It is not that different that NBC trying to force an early debate. For example, consider Joshua Green of the Atlantic and Boston Globe wondering if Huntsman can “Shake His Mormon Label?“ If Rubin is right, and I believe she is, and Huntsman has little or no chance, then what is this but a means by which to bring up the Mormon meme and put it into play so that it can be used against one of the stronger Republican candidates. I mean in many senses 2008 has asked and answered that question not only about Romney but about any Mormon candidate. The answer is, as we have documented, that it is a unique difficulty. But all candidates have some unique difficulty; this one is not a disqualifier.
And we are already beginning to see the left try to shift focus from Huntsman/Romney to Romney alone. Without mentioning Mormonsim specifically, Weigel at Slate attempts to connect Beck and Romney. And then some fools don’t need Huntsman to bring it up at all anymore:
In 2007, Romney gave a speech about religious liberty, religious tolerance and the role that faith would play in his presidency.
That speech put the religious issue to bed for the 2008 primary season,…
That may be the most politically ignorant statement I have read in a very long time. Romney gave the speech in December of ’07, much earlier than he planned to, because of what was happening in Iowa, and he still lost Iowa! “…put the religious issue to bed for the 2008 primary season…,“ Indeed!
And all of this at a time when Mormons are truly stepping forward to lead religious people generally towards what we need to keep America what it always has been. Dallin Oaks spoke at Chapman University last week. (Transcript here – follow-up interview transcript here) It was a marvelous speech and one that should be preserved for the ages. It is a masterwork for all people of faith in the United States. It is also particularly timely. David French pointed out at Patheos last week that Mormons and Catholics are stepping into the gap left as Evangelicals seem to be in serious disarray. (More on this in a moment.)
As conservatives of faith we cannot let the left define the narrative they way they are trying to here. They want to use our faiths to divide us at a time when we should be uniting under the banner of faith – whether it be behind Mitt Romney, or another candidate of deep religious conviction. There is much at risk; we can neither take the bait nor stoop to their level.
So with that, let’s turn to the hard candidate news.
…dominated the discussion this week past. Yes, Huntsman and the inevitable Mormon blowback was a part of that, but also that was by design with the paperback roll out of his book and accompanying media tour. He continues to offer strong hints. Some think they have uncovered his campaign slogan. He is doing well in National Journal’s power rankings. And as we have previously discussed, he is getting some talk-up by some very influential Republicans. He is even getting profiled in places that would not recognize a Republican if one was delivered to them.
One of the more interesting developments of the week was that despite rumors Romney would skip Iowa, he said on Hugh Hewitt’s show that he most certainly would campaign there. But then the Sioux City Iowa paper carried a story about whether “doing” Iowa is what it used to be – new media and all. Put all this together and picture emerges in which Romney does not skip Iowa, but he does not campaign there in the traditional Iowa sense. That might be a win-win for Romney since he probably will not win the caucuses. An idea the Des Moines Register seems to have picked up on.
But his status as presumed frontrunner is easily confirmed by the enemies he has – less than a frontrunner would not be worth the effort. Ben Smith points out a “stop Mitt” effort. There is nothing on the Internet about who is behind the effort (R Acher and a phone number that I do not have the time to call – if a reader does let us know), but it would be interesting to know if there is an anti-Mormon sentiment behind it. There certainly is the “flip-flop” charge behind it and we all know that in some instances “flip-flop” is code for “Mormons are untrustworthy.” Some are pointing to alliances, or lack thereof, in New Hampshire as a problem. And one must wonder why Fred Karger is aiming himself so specifically at Romney. Pretty much all the Republicans are opposed to the homosexual agenda, so why be so specific? (Religion and Prop 8 – no doubt.)
Sarah Palin is trying to trademark her name. Certainly something a media star does, but a candidate? Which makes this bit of speculation – that no one is declaring yet, but waiting to see what she will do – very silly.
John Thune latest rumors: not running.
Haley Barbour latest rumors: running.
Mitch Daniels remains under fire, despite efforts to help. (Read the comments.)
Newt Gingrich – underrated? Nope, overrated.
Rick Santorum – home for the disaffected Evangelical? Yep, probably, just not enough of them this cycle to matter.
Mike Huckabee – good preacher. Just not much of a presidential politician, which is why Rick Santorum can fill his slot so readily.
Joe Lieberman, a Jew, is going to write a book on faith. There are about as many Jews as there are Mormons in the country. Why are not people up in arms? Oh, that’s right – he is more or less a Democrat….
I may disagree with the current president on just about everything, but calling his professed faith into question is as unseemly as it is regarding anyone else. Whenever I read stuff like this I think of glass houses for some reason.
Joe Carter links and says, “Nondenominational is Becoming America’s Favorite Denomination.” I think this says much that lead to the situation discussed in the next piece:
Simply put, we evangelicals are blown and tossed by the cultural winds. Right now, the winds are blowing against us, and our young people are reluctant to engage. But God is sovereign, and the fate of the nation is in His hands, not ours. And if we fail, there are others—some from an ancient tradition, some from a new one—who may very well carry out His work with more faith and courage than we ever could.
Deep stuff that. Without denominational structures, I am not sure what the way out for Evangelicals is politically and culturally – for now we must follow those better organized and suited. But I also think it says much about the spiritual state of Evangelicalism at the moment. Such spiritual matters are not what we discuss on this blog, but I have written about it on my “Godblog” – Blogotional. Please read it if you are so inclined.