No time for analysis, but this is what you need to know.
The Good News!
The Bad News
Campaign against Romney’s Mormon Faith Could Get “Nastier” – just about EVERYBODY expects such in South Carolina – consider…
From the Washington Post:
South Carolina’s less visible politics are often darker than even the brutal attack ads that are running out in the open. Tompkins [ed note: Warren Tompkins, Romney’s strategist in the state} refused to address just what the campaign would do in the face of surreptitious attacks on Romney’s Mormon faith. His team has already sent out mailers emphasizing that he’s been steady in his faith. It’s a contrast with Gingrich, who recently converted to Catholicism.
“We just have to be prepared for anything and everything and be disciplined with the message and how to cut through the misinformation,” Tompkins said.
Asked if he was prepared for a whisper campaign about his Mormon religion or other aspects of his background, Romney said: “Politics ain’t bean bags and I know it’s going to get tough and no one’s going to be happy if things are said that are untrue. But I know that is sometimes part of the underbelly of politics.”
Not to mention bad puns from ABC – “Psalm Before the Storm as S.C. Evangelicals Get Set”
So here’s my question – if the Bain attacks are helping the Obama campaign, does getting braggadocios about South Carolina, which will clearly suffer some sort of religious effect, reflect a reliance on religious bigotry and does that reflect on the candidate’s character?
Lowell adds . . .
John’s right, the Pew poll about the Evangelical vote in New Hampshire is good news. Looking closely at the numbers, however, suggests that there may be a greater Evangelical impact in South Carolina. In New Hampshire Romney won 39% of all voters and 31% of Evangelical voters. Rick Santorum had 9% of all voters and 23% of Evangelicals. Only Romney had more voters in the Evangelical column. Interestingly, Ron Paul was right behind Santorum with 21% in that voter group. If Evangelicals in South Carolina break down along the same lines, Romney wins. If they don’t, the race there could be very tight. I wish my crystal ball worked better….
Regarding the general election and the expected tactics of Romney’s left-of-center opponents, I would love to be wrong, but I also think Patrick Mason’s comments (John links to them above) will turn out to be prophetic:
“Certainly they’ll pick up on the history of polygamy,” Mason told American News Report. “They’ll say that Mormonism is anti-democratic, that’s its hierarchical, that’s its patriarchal. There will probably be stuff that it discriminates against women, that it has a history of discrimination against blacks, that it’s homophobic. I think those are the kind of critiques that we’ll see from the secular left. But those are people who weren’t going to vote for Romney anyway.”
No, they won’t ever vote for Romney but what will the impact of those attacks be on the independent voters who hold the key to the election?
Meanwhile, Fox News reports that a Pew survey also suggests that my fellow Mormons believe the country is ready to elect a president who’s a member of our church. Randall Balmer, a Columbia professor and expert on American religious history who’s quoted in the story, seems to have captured the essence of what’s ahead:
A nearly unanimous number (97 percent) of Mormons surveyed describe themselves as Christian. But a Pew survey in November showed one-third of non-Mormon U.S. adults said Mormonism is not Christian, and 17 percent were unsure.
“Mormons think they’re more fully mainstream than other Americans think they are,” Balmer said. “I don’t question their status in American society but there are vestigial prejudices against Mormons, particularly from Conservative Evangelicals.”
But Balmer asserts that the Iowa caucuses, where Romney placed first, may be a barometer for Evangelical voting in 2012. “Many evangelicals were willing to set aside principle for pragmatism for a candidate who has the best chance of winning against President Obama.”
(Emphasis added.) Setting aside “principle for pragmatism?” I think Balmer may be right about how Evangelical voters will decide; I hope so, anyway. But I’m not sure I would state it the same way. Is voting for someone based primarily on his or her religious beliefs really exercising religious principle, or is it simply confusing secular and religious issues?