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.
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On Sunday’s TV talk shows, everybody was asked about the controversial statement by evangelical leader Robert Jeffress at the Values Voter Summit of social conservatives over the weekend. After introducing Perry as a “a born-again follower of Jesus Christ” while suggesting that Romney was merely “a good moral person,” the Rev. Jeffress told reporters, “Mormonism is not Christianity … Mormonism is a cult.”Skip to next paragraph
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MONITOR QUIZ: How much do you know about Mitt Romney?
Some flatly disagreed with Jeffress, others waffled.
Santorum acknowledged that Romney “says he is a Christian.”
"I believe that they believe they are Christians," Cain said of Mormons.
"None of us should sit in judgment of somebody else's religion," said former House speaker Newt Gingrich, perhaps reminding people that he used to be a Southern Baptist before converting to Roman Catholicism after his third marriage.
The issue dogged Perry, who’d taken his campaign to Iowa. In essence, he rejected the Jeffress assertion about Romney without being personally critical of a Baptist minister with a megachurch in Dallas (which might not have been appreciated by many evangelicals).
"I don't think the Mormon Church is a cult," Perry told The Des Moines Register over the weekend. "People who endorse me or people who work for me, I respect their endorsement and their work, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I endorse all of their statements."
For Romney himself, of course, it’s a major distraction. According to a Pew Research Center poll this summer, 25 percent of all voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate if he or she were a Mormon.
In his first race for the presidency four years ago, Romney likened himself to Kennedy in 1960 regarding separation of church and state.
In what probably was his most important political speech at the time, Romney said, “Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions.” He may have to dust off that speech and give it again.
The next Republican candidates debate is Tuesday in New Hampshire. You can expect these speed bump issues to come up there.
MONITOR QUIZ: How well do you know Rick Perry?