Article VI Blog

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

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

So, What Happened?

Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:46 am, January 23rd 2012     —    5 Comments »

Not as much as one might think, to be honest.  If you had looked in a crystal ball in December and told me that at this point Romney would have a virtual tie in Iowa, a big win in New Hampshire, and a second place finish (compared to 4th in 2008) in South Carolina and a double digit polling lead in Florida, I would have told you the Romney campaign was exactly where it wanted to be – maybe even a little ahead of the game with that Iowa tie.

Yet the punditry and press, and most importantly the Democrats want to make you think this is a disaster.  Well, let us keep in mind that the line between the press and the Democrats is a thin one – of course, they want a “disaster” for the Republicans, because it strengthens their guy.  As far as the punditry goes, there are some deviations from the expected narrative, most notably in that it is Newt Gingrich that won in SC.  Why did Newt win?  Well, I think my analysis of Saturday holds, not to mention the fact that he is the closest thing to an Evangelical still standing.

It can never be forgotten that Newt engineered the great electoral turn around of 1994.  The man knows how to campaign; governance and temperance are the issue.  Personally, I am not too worried about Newt, he can hurt himself just as fast as he can help himself – and in all probability will.  Look, Newt played hardball here.  His debate exchange with Juan Williams rang the racism bell as Mike Huckabee’s “question” to the NYTimes reporter rang the Mormon bell in Iowa last time.  South Carolina may not be quite as redneck as it used to be, but as this election proved, Iowa is not quite as anti-Mormon as people may have thought, and yet, in 2008 the right bell at the right time can move the needle quite a bit.  The issue of racism is settled in this nation – it’s just flat out wrong. People are going to wake up to what Newt did in SC and it’s going to leave a mark.

There are smoke signals that the Mormon issue was at play.  We received reports from some making GOTV calls that they were getting a lot of Mormon pushback.  There are stats like this:

Exit polls show that 43 percent of voters who said that the candidates’ religious beliefs mattered “a great deal” went for Gingrich. Only 9 percent went for Romney — a lower percentage than he netted overall, where he is running in second. In contrast, of voters who said the religious beliefs of candidates didn’t matter to them at all, Romney won 42 percent.

And stories like these kept popping up during the voting day in SC:

Outside Tommy’s Ham House here this morning–where Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich scheduled back-to-back visits–a boisterous crowd of young, fresh-faced supporters was waving Romney signs and chanting, “MITT! MITT! MITT!”

But this wasn’t a grassroots youth movement rooted at the University of South Carolina. No, many of the students cheering on the candidate told BuzzFeed they were actually BYU students and young Mormons from D.C. and Virginia who traveled to the Palmetto State to give their coreligionist’s presidential effort a much-needed jolt of energy.

Don’t kid yourself – they were ringing the Mormon bell with stories like that, building the image of  vast religious conspiracy designed to play on the fears of the fence sitting Evangelical.  And speaking of stories that popped up during the voting day trying to ring bells, what about this one:

As someone who watched him first against Ted Kennedy, and then, later, during his run for governor, I am really rather stunned at what a singularly appalling liar Mitt Romney has become. It is bone-deep with him now.

If that sentence, from a leftie, is not designed to put fear into the hearts of Evangelicals that have a trust problem with Mormons, I do not know what is.  The PJMedia Tatler said:

Believe it or not (and I didn’t think it possible), Mormonism was one reason Romney lost South Carolina.  Exit polls show that most South Carolina voters wanted a candidate that shared similar religious views.  Romney lost big among those voters.  Note, I am not describing what ought to be, but rather what the data show is happening.

Oh, I think so too, quite a bit.  There were undoubtedly the usual whispers and mailings that happen in SC.  The Mormon issue was never really tested in SC last time as it was in Iowa.  Romney was no longer dominant by the time we got there and so it never really had to be tested.

I honestly think that we, and those that agree with us, have been successful at delegitimizing the Mormon issue – no one on the right side of the aisle dare mention it openly.  Robert Jeffress tried and was sent to the waste bin of politics.  In point of fact, I think Jeffress may have doomed Perry even before he got started.  We will never admit our bigotries, and at this juncture we will go to great lengths to hide them.  That includes voting for someone like Newt Gingrich with all the baggage he carries.

And the baggage may be more enormous than some suspect.  Consider this bit of analysis from the left:

Those willing to make excuses for Gingrich’s cheating on his second wife, Marianne, with his current wife, Callista (he also cheated on wife No. 1 with Marianne, who later became wife No. 2) are quick to say that the Christian faith requires forgiveness. And that is absolute right. But when has Gingrich apologized to President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for his routine missives declaring both of them morally corrupt? When has Gingrich ever said publicly that while he was ripping other to shreds, he was doing the same to his marriage vows to forsake all others?

[...]

Gingrich is correct in stating that many of the folks in the audience understand personal pain. But when Newt himself, and his party, has shown little concern in the past about such pain when it has affected someone in the other party, their pleas for understanding looks like shameful pandering.

So to the Republican Party, your high-minded and sanctimonious positions about others not having morals and values should end. If you are willing to accept Newt Gingrich with all of his failings, then you had better open your arms for a whole lot of other sinners who have also sought God’s redemption.

But again, despite some that think Romney’s troubles are serious politics, I think he is right where he planned to be.  The only competition standing are a lunatic libertarian; a wonderful person who suffered from anti-Catholic bias in SC as much as Romney suffered anti-Mormon bias; and someone who is barely a Catholic, whom we can count on to self-destruct at some point in the future – and might even be baited into self-destruction.

And then there is this:

The South Carolina electorate didn’t vote for a person or a platform; they voted for a personality — the fiery, combative, MSM-hating Newt. They want the GOP nominee to charge at the president, throw around the term Alinksyite, push back at John King and Juan Williams, and shout out the absurdity of Barack Obama as president and the destructiveness of his combination of epic incompetence and awful ideology.

I suspect that the GOP as a whole has a lot of this pent-up anger at the Manhattan-Beltway media elites, and they too have been cool to cool hand Mitt as a result.

But if, having been indulged, that passion for a political fistfight ebbs and the desire to win grows, Romney will be a much, much better nominee for having blown a round on points and too timid by far a strategy.

Anger is not a sustainable political force a lesson that Rick Santorum may yet have to learn:

Rev. O’Neal Dozier, the conservative pastor of Pompano Beach’s Worldwide Christian Center, told the Palm Beach Post Sunday that Mitt Romney cannot win the presidency because Americans won’t vote for a Mormon president.

Following his third place finish in South Carolina, Rick Santorum made his first Florida campaign stop at Dozier’s church, where he gave a faith-based sermon. Dozier has been an outspoken critic of homosexuality and radical Islam. In November, former presidential candidate Herman Cain decided minutes before a speech not to have Dozier deliver his invocation, as was originally planned.

“You can look at the June Gallup poll that shows the people have already spoken – 22 percent of the electorate will not vote for a Mormon,” Dozier said. “The American people will not vote for a Mormon to be president of the United States.”

Dozier, who is black, said a Republican will need at least 10 percent of the black vote to win the presidency.

“Blacks are not going to vote for anyone of the Mormon faith,” Dozier said. “The book of Mormon says the Negro skin is cursed.”

[...]

Dozier’s comments came after Santorum had left a Coral Springs rally to attend a private fundraiser at the Coral Ridge Country Club. Santorum was not available to comment.

Santorum keeps flirting with anti-Mormon sentiment in a plausibly deniable fashion.  That can become a weapon to be used against him just as easily as Gingrich’s intemperance will likely undermine him.

Romney needs to capture the passion that underlies the anger present in the party, and he undoubtedly will.

It’s going to be another very interesting 10 days.

Addendum after publication: This post was written before the new polling for Florida, showing Gingrich with a lead was released, so it is a bit behind, but in light of that you have to think about what Jim Geraghty said this morning in his newsletter:

With Newt as the nominee, the Republican message to swing voters is, “Vote for the guy you detest to replace the president whom you still like but who has disappointed you.” That’s not an impossible sales pitch, but it is an extraordinarily difficult one.

Lowell adds . . .

Here are some points I received from a friend.  Call them “Things We Wish More People Knew About Mittt Romney:”

  • “Mitt’s point – made too late in SC and too quietly to be appreciated in Florida – that he gave away his father’s money and none of his own wealth is from an inheritance….”
  • “That he refused SEVEN CONSECUTIVE YEARS of salary – essentially donating his incredibly valuable time and executive talents to the Salt Lake Olympic Committee and the state of Massachusetts….”
  • “The contrast is stark: In a decade when Newt Gingrich was taking and taking money from special public interests and endangering the national economy to do so, Mitt was foregoing compensation to balance budgets and rescue a state and an Olympics.”

I don’t know why the Romney campaign isn’t getting these point out, or why the news media are not interested in them.  E-mail your friends about this, blog about it, Twitter about it; call in to talk radio shows with the information.  People should know these things.

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