Why Mitt Romney called out Rick Perry on Mormonism 'cult' claim

Mitt Romney set the table for questioning Rick Perry in tonight's GOP debate about pastor Robert Jeffress's claim about Mormonism.

REUTERS/Adam Hunger
Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney is endorsed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Lebanon, N.H. October 11, 2011.

In his joint press event with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – in which Christie threw his weight behind Romney – Mitt Romney for the first time challenged rival Rick Perry to publicly disavow comments made by pastor Robert Jeffress calling Mormonism a “cult.” Jeffress made those remarks when introducing Perry at lthis weekend’s Values Voters Summit – a gathering of 3,000 or so conservatives organized by the Family Research Council.

Perry, through a spokesman, has already declined.

Over the weekend, when Perry was asked by reporters if he agreed with the Jeffress remarks, Perry said “no,” but declined to elaborate. Romney, for his part, denounced the “poisonous language” but for four days he did not directly challenge Perry over the matter.

Until now.

By waiting until just hours before tonight’s GOP debate to tackle the matter head-on, Romney has all but ensured - we think - that moderators will put the matter to Perry directly. And he has managed to take an issue that has long been seen as a potential vulnerability for him and, for now, put Perry on the defensive. Smart politics.

As DCDecoder reported previously, most of the major Christie financial donors are moving into the Romney camp.

Tune in to tonight for live blogging on the debate.

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