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Sex, race, and religion: Speed bumps along the campaign trail

Mitt Romney's religion, Herman Cain's comments about Muslims, Rick Perry's hunting camp with the racially-offensive name – just a few of the distractions along the 2012 campaign trail.

By Staff writer / October 9, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, GOP presidential contender, speaks at McCarthy & Bailey's Irish Pub in Sioux City, Iowa on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011.

Jim Lee/The Sioux City Journal/AP

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Presidential campaigns are filled with potential speed bumps, some merely shaking the dust off the hubcaps, others wrecking the suspension or even knocking off the wheels. Some appear unexpectedly, others are self-constructed.

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Campaign 2012 for the field of Republicans hoping to unseat Barack Obama is no exception.

Mitt Romney has to deal with his Mormon religion – again – while the other candidates figure out how to respond to a prominent evangelical pastor’s slam against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Rick Perry (whose supporter was the minister who said Mormonism was “a cult” and “not Christianity”) still is trying to explain how and why his family’s hunting camp had a racially offensive name.

Herman Cain had to pronounce himself “humble and contrite” for statements he’d made about Islam and Muslims. (He had supported a Tennessee town’s effort to ban a mosque, had said Muslims “have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them,” and had said he would think twice about naming a Muslim to his cabinet “because terrorists are trying to kill us.”)

All the GOP candidates seemed flat-footed when a debate audience booed a gay soldier who posed a question (via video from Iraq) about “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Rick Santorum, who’d jumped right in to declare that he would reinstate the recently-repealed policy of banning openly-gay men and women from serving in the military, later told Fox News, “I condemn the people who booed that gay soldier.”

Herman Cain said he regretted not having spoken up on the soldier’s behalf "because of the controversy it has created and because of the different interpretations that it could have had.”

On the hunting camp story – the camp bore a name that included the “N” word when the Perry family acquired it in the 1980s – Cain condemned it as “just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country,” but then backed down a bit. Others were forced to comment as well, Santorum reluctantly suggesting that Perry might have used “poor judgment.”

While the candidates would much rather discuss their economic policies and foreign policy talking points, things like Romney’s religion keep interfering. (Jon Huntsman is a Mormon too, but he’s so far from front-runner status as to be virtually invisible.)

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