If you are religious and want to run for president, prepare for…
…Attack, Attack, Attack!
If you’re a Romneyite, I suppose it’s a good thing, but if you value your religion and your political voice I would not be to happy. The savaging of Michele Bachmann continues apace and as Rick Perry’s entry in the race looks increasingly likely, he too is coming under extreme “scrutiny” for his faith. The political math is pretty simple. Attacking Perry and Bachmann for faith means evangelicals, the people most likely to try and sink Romney are going to be too busy defending themselves to go after Romney. Not to mention they are dividing the vote between them which means the bloc probably won’t be big enough to defeat Romney. Some are talking about Romney’s “stealth” campaign in Iowa. A Perry/Bachmann cage match with some interference by Pawlenty could make for an extraordinarily strong showing for Romney in that state in which all expect him to under perform. Perry appears to be gearing up for South Carolina, ala Fred Thompson, but…. I wonder what a surprise win or a stronger than expected second place in Iowa would do for Romney? Only good things I am sure.
But the attacks on Perry and Bachmann and anyone else religious are scurrilous and problematic. We have contended all along that religion based attacks on Romney would result in similar attacks on those of us in the more mainstream expressions of faith. Further, we contended that if we attacked Romney on the basis of his faith we would be aiding and abetting our opponents and that certainly seems to be the case. One of our friends at Evangelicals for Mitt has risen to Michelle Bachmann’s defense this week past, and rightly so – not to mention some others. (Speaking of which, Nancy French at EFM got a bit of a nod from “Christianity Today.” I am just waiting for the attacks to begin on them.) I predict that this will be the ugliest campaign in terms of religion this nation has seen in a long, long time, and I do not think Romney is going to bear the brunt of it.
So what went on? The mini-furor over Bachmann’s church departure echoed a bit, but is largely done. The attacks this week were based on reports of sever migraine’s. That’s what David French was defending her about above. It’s a low blow, that’s for sure. Here’s a good, if left leaning, synopsis of the issues facing her. It’s not pretty, but then she is a bit extremist so she is likely to draw extreme response.
I talked to a bunch of party operatives and analysts last week, and every one of them said that while Bachmann could well cause the early demise of Tim Pawlenty’s candidacy and complicate Romney’s bid for many months to come, she stands almost no chance of victory. And never did.
So why all the fuss?
She’s a bonanza for the news media, which these days have vast acres of not only cable TV but also cyberspace to fill. She’s manna for pundits, who can talk only so archly about the vanilla vanguard of Romney, Pawlenty and company. When Bachmann stormed into view, she provided a wanted, needed burst of flavor and color. But flavor and color go only so far.
Yep, Tim Pawlenty is in a world of hurt since her entry in the race – not that he was doing that well before. This lead some to believe he was behind the headache attack, but he denies it vigorously. Pawlenty needs to settle down, that is for sure. He is too reactive and unsure of himself. He fails to attack Romney in a debate then comes out and overstates the case in a radio interview, a classic sign of someone that knows they are standing in quicksand. It is too early to write him off, but he has got to get his footing quickly.
Some wondered if Perry/Bachmann was the super ticket. Which brings me to…
…The Latest Savior, Rick Perry
When Jesus came to earth, the Jews were anxious for the arrival of the Messiah and there were many that laid claim to, or were shoved into, that slot. There is a certain stripe of voter in the Republican party that strikes me very much the same. Perpetually dissatisfied, they cast about for the perfect candidate. This stripe of voter is largely, but not entirely, religious. Therefore, when someone comes along and claims a “call,” or otherwise speaks their language, they hop on the Savior express, yet again.
Perry, should he run, will be formidable, at least for a while. This group is so fickle that they just cannot be relied upon until they are actually forced to cast a vote. This was Fred Thompson last time, and Perry sure seems to have more “fire in his belly” than ol’ Fred did, not to mention a much better political machine. But this is an election for President, not Savior, despite what some seem to think.
Perry is not as extreme as Bachmann, so much so that many of those that have been looking to him as Savior may have a serious issue on their hands, so the MSM will have a harder time finding a petard upon which to foist him. But they will work hard at it. If anything the religious attacks will be harder and uglier. I think the jury will be out on Perry for a while yet.
The Board Is Altered, But Mormons Are Still In Play
Bachmann and Perry’s likely entry have changed this elections dynamic considerably. What looked like a Romney/Pawlenty/also-ran race now looks like a Romney v winner of the Bachmann/Perry undercard. And as we have seen, the undercard is getting all the current religious attention. Nobody is talking about the fact that Romney is a Mormon. But they are talking Mormon:
- That talking about Mormons used to sell magazines. (Still does hence all the talk.)
- That weird things happen to some Mormon individuals. (Don’t they to all of us?!)
- Some Mormons are trying to explain what they believe today. (Give it up – the press doesn’t know what we mainstreamers believe, as the Bachmann attacks clearly demonstrate)
- Mormons have an executive training program?! PUH-LEEZE.
So, the LDS church is responding to all this in a responsible way. They’ve added to their online resources a page devoted to the church’s stance on political freedom (they like it). They, for one, want to talk about what really matters.
There is some Mormon election buzz. Deseret News covered some of Huntsman’s statements on his faith. And Time got a little underhanded with this headline on their Swampland blog:
Think they’re evoking “flip-flop” and tying it to Mormonism? No, of course not, that would be biased reporting. Not Time.
But that takes us to…
The Silly Political Attack on Romney
So here is the thing. Before politics, Mitt Romney was a businessman, a pretty good one. Lots of people are, Lowell and I for example. A number of Romney’s friends are therefore quite naturally businesspeople themselves. Doing business requires making hard decisions, even painful ones. Sometimes it means laying people off or foreclosing on mortgages. So this week saw a mini-flood of stories about Romney’s decisions to lay people off when he was at Bain and some of his supporters business decisions as well. This was entirely predictable as the tactic was used against Romney by Ted Kennedy in Romney’s barely-failed Senate run against the Democrat legend. I hate the tactic because it plays upon and reinforces people’s ignorance about the difference between a company and the economy. Not to mention it plays on people insecurities when what they need is to be motivated to reach now heights.
This got little play, but it’s early. Look for a return of this meme and call this week past a trip into the wading pool to see the temperature of the water. There are lots of polls saying lots of things right now, but in the broader ones, Romney is still carrying the day significantly.
In The Side Show
Jon Huntsman is in disarray before his campaign was ever really arrayed. Huntsman is too moderate for the base and now that the media has Bachmann to knock around on the religion angle, Huntsman is not a useful tool to bring up the whole Mormon thing. The MSM may try to revive him because he is moderate, but I think if Bachmann hangs tough she’ll be more fun for them.
…There’s a lot of it.
One person is trying to paint a Mormon as more reasonable, and biblical, than the Evangelicals. Now that is a twist. Although his failure to mention Romney should tell us something.
For a comic geek like me, this story showed that in some areas our senators have a complete lack of imagination. My choice, were I a senator, would be Black Lightening – he actually served in the president’s cabinet.