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"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

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Yes, There Was A “Debate,” Lots of Punditry, and No We Still Do Not Really Know What’s Going To Happen Here

Posted by: John Schroeder at 10:31 pm, May 8th 2011     —    1 Comment »

The “Debate”…

Come on, with one major player (Pawlenty), one minor leaguer (Santorum) and the guys from the clown car, you expect us not to use quotes?  Leave it to the completely shunned Politico to bash Fox over the lack of participation.   Jim Geraghty compared the exercise to preseason football (I think he is being kind).  Pawlenty got all the press from the serious commentators – Contentions and RCP – and his friends were a bit too effusiveHugh Hewitt had the best summation of commentary on his blog, although my favorite commentary of them all was his on-air discussion with Guy Benson rating the moderators not the participants.

Best analysis seems to be that Romney won by not showing.

Frankly, a debate without the guy beating New Hampshire like a drum is a media circus and not seriously a part of the equation about who is going to get the GOP nod.  That said, things are definitely up-shifting when it comes to talk about the GOP primary season.

Speaking of Romney…

…When it comes to the debate, David Brody just gets snotty.  I have no idea where this attitude came from, but it is definitely unbecoming.

The word “front-runner” keeps coming up about Romney, and it makes sense.  He even got some praise from some unusual corners.  But that also makes him a target.  Massachusetts health care is still the place where most people try to hit him.  One of the stranger episodes came from Jim DeMint.  This DeMint thing is only being trumpeted by the left and it seems obvious to me that there is more at play than what we see.  I tend to ignore stuff where the information void is obvious.

But what is most interesting is the Mormon thing is now being used to bash the entire GOP:

Romney should be the heir apparent.  He has all the right, and Right qualifications: He’s an articulate, smart businessman; he saved the Olympics from itself; he’s a former governor of a very Blue state; he has great hair, ala Reagan; he would appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, and even some Democrats; and he’s known as a doer.

But, there’s always the big but, Romney is a Mormon, which seems to terrify fundamentalist Christians, He brought health care reform to Massachusetts, and he’s considered a moderate, all anathemas to the new Republican who hankers for “pure” politics.

If this criticism is truly correct, and I do not think it is, we cannot win a general election – period.  What does concern me though is that the left and the MSM will try and establish this as THE narrative.  The are emphasizing it in more subtle ways as well as they did so blatantly above.  Consider this LATimes piece on Pawlenty:

Pawlenty is also emphasizing his social conservative positions more than he did as governor of Minnesota and talking more about his Christian faith — a legitimate subject but also one that reminds evangelical voters that he’s not the Mormon in the race.

For them, political conservatives are de facto bigoted.  That is a gross oversimplification.  Are there bigoted people among us?  Of course, and there are among liberals as well.  That’s not the point – such does not define our party.  We need to be working to nip this meme in the bud, not just for Romney but for the good of the party.  Karl Rove did the math and thinks things look good for the GOP, but that does not mean we are going to win without working at it.

The usual blah…blah…blah does not help either.  Sometimes I wish reporters would figure out this whole internet thing and stop writing stories that have been written a few thousand times before.

Tim Pawlenty…

…may be the only other top-tier candidate besides Romney, but he just cannot get much coverage.  He is taking advantage of his proximity to Iowa, but not all the news from there is good.   He is playing to the Tea Party, which is not all bad, but I do think too close an association there will do more harm than good come the general.

The Second Tier

Mitch Daniels probably won the war for coverage in the last week -  he got a lot, most of it speculative.  He is asking some questions of the right people, and he has some support.  He is also drawing a bit of fire, which shows some are beginning to worry about him.  This is, however, all the clue I need.  He’s gonna flirt, but it’s not going to happen.

Some people will be disappointed – “Mitch Daniels campaign only lacks candidate.”

Mike Huckabee‘s supporters are drawing snide comments from Jim Geraghty.  That speaks volumes.  Funny how headlines are similar – “Mike Huckabee’s Ready-Made Campaign.”

The old Huckster got in trouble with the ADL, and some tried to come to his aid.  The ADL tends to over-react, but I have got to tell you, Huckabee keeps putting his foot in his mouth – a fine trait in a media personality, but not so good for a president.  And despite the fact that some think he still might run, why is Fox cancelling Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum’s contracts, but not the Huckster’s?

Rick Santorum did the 700 Club.  He walked down a very evangelical path while there.  I have resisted the temptation to get into the whole JFK speech debate.  There are a lot of smart people on both sides of it, smarter than me.  But that said, I am just not satisfied with what I am hearing on either side.  I may just have to put the effort in.

Newt Gingrich appears to be for real.  But note, I am putting him on the second tier.  He has made too many gaffes already.  He is too smart to make such gaffes, unless he is not serious.  I just think he is getting in to bump his “Q.”  Not to mention, he’s a bit behind a lot of curves.

And The Rest

Jon Huntsman seems also to be for real.  But he is in many ways as wonkish as Daniels – and TALK ABOUT A DEATH HUG!  Despite some formidable skills and efforts to dig out from under the “death hug,” he is going to have to earn his way onto the second tier for me.

The comparisons with Romney grow more tiring every day.  This lazy Ben Smith piece (he’s a younger, hipper Romney) is just beyond the pale.  There is nothing to connect Romney and Huntsman but religion which means religion is all the press sees when they see either of them.  Isn’t that a bit like looking at a black person and all you can see is the black?  Isn’t that the definition of prejudice?  The real game here is that Huntsman was a moderate governor of a very conservative state – Romney was a conservative governor of an extraordinarily liberal state.  One (Huntsman) would move the country left and the other would move it right, and we know that the press wants.

Besides, Huntsman proves his complete lack of authenticity as a Mormon with this single headline:

Huntsman dines with Huck

Huckabee may have apologized to Romney, but he has never apologized to the LDS community generally for all the garbage and ugliness that floated across his website last cycle.  Nor did he seek to tamp down that anti-Mormon nastiness done by people operating in his name – his own daughter for example.  Until he does so, I am not sure many self-respecting Mormons would be able to choke down dinner under these circumstances.

Michelle Bachmann has some appeal, but she is too easy a target.

Rudy Giuliani?  He may float, but please – it’s a fund-raising stunt.

Religion Reading

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.  I have yet to meet the Mormon that thinks disagreeing with Mormon doctrine is “anti-Mormon.”  What is anti-Mormon is using that disagreement as a reason to disqualify someone from public service or other engagement in the public sphere.  It is also just rude to argue with Mormons about their beliefs at every turn – not to mention that such is indicative of having a problem with Mormons, despite protestation to the contrary.  Lots of people believe lots of wrong things, sometimes you need to leave them to it.  Besides

A Question asked, and answered.

World Magazine is pretty much in the dumper ’round these parts, but they got this one right.

Religion and politics are closely related, yet distinct.

Not a bad idea, provided it is not used to give cover to wrong-headed policy.

Lowell adds . . .

In Sunday’s Seattle Times we saw “Being Mormon: Does it matter in public eye?“  The news analysis item (published in the paper’s local news section) addresses the core issues we’ve been looking at for the past 5 years or so.  It all started with a local Seattle story, as the first two paragraphs make clear:

Consider this: On the one hand, two names that keep coming up as serious candidates for the U.S. presidency are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who last week created a federal political-action committee to raise money for a possible campaign. Both happen to be Mormon.

On the other hand, many comments posted by readers in response to Seattle Times articles about new University of Washington President Michael Young — who is also Mormon — were so against that faith that a TV station and newspaper in Salt Lake City took note.

It turns out that Mike Young, the former dean of the George Washington University School of Law and now a very successful president of the University of Utah, has been chosen to become the next President of the University of Washington. Other than that story, there isn’t much else that’s new in the Seattle Times piece. Still, it’s a good and worthwhile read.

Meanwhile,  the other Seattle paper, the Post Intelligencer, is interested in The Question, but only in South Carolina.  In “Romney’s South Carolina hesitation,” we see the same elaborate denials from some that religion had anything to do with Romney’s poor 2008 results in that state.  My favorite is the guy who says health care was the real reason Romney faltered in South Carolina in 2008, which is interesting because Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare plan didn’t become an issue for conservatives until 2009 at the earliest.

The beat goes on….

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