A Mormon ticket

I love it when reporters look for religion angles in political stories, I really do. Sometimes, though, a reporter tries too hard to see a faith angle. Consider Joshua Green's post for The Atlantic on Jon Huntsman's new website, www.Jon2012.com, and whether it has any biblical implications, referring to the New Testament passage John 20:12.

Okay, so it's the resurrection. But I was at loss to see any deeper meaning in it.

Serendipitously, my father is a theologian. I put in a call to him. "I'm assuming that's intentional, because otherwise it's an odd thing to call your website," he said. "The passage is the part of the description of the empty tomb. I believe the two angels only appear in the Book of John." And?

He didn't have an and. "A politician would want to associate himself with Jesus Christ, I suppose," he said. "But the passage isn't theologically weighted."

Or maybe it's because www.huntsman2012.com is already taken, I don't know. To be fair, Green doesn't take his theory terribly seriously.

So unlike my dad, I doubt the biblical allusion is intentional. Rather, I think it reflects his big gripe about religion in politics--and also about religion in the media--which is that political consultants, like reporters, are so ignorant of religion that the allusion probably would not even have occurred to them.

Again, I think it simply comes down to someone named Jon (not John) is running for president in 2012. It is interesting that the only mention of his faith on his site is in the timeline referring to his Mormon mission in 1979. But I haven't looked at the other candidates' site thoroughly to know whether a dearth of personal faith mention is actually terribly unusual. It certainly isn't highlighted on Mitt Romney's website.

We've talked before about stories that look at the differences between Huntsman and Romney's faith, and I think they are helpful. CNN's Dan Gilgoff has another one that helps remind readers that all Mormons are not alike.

It will be interesting how their respective faith communities receive them, which this Washington Post story examines in an interesting piece on fundraising within the Mormon community.

In Utah, Romney is trying to lure back his old donors. But he is also competing against Huntsman to sign up bundlers — supporters who help bring in donations from their friends and colleagues.

Several knowledgeable Utah Republicans said Romney has won over many of the community’s biggest donors. But at least half a dozen prominent business leaders who gave to Romney in 2008, including Zions Bank Chairman A. Scott Anderson, will hold a breakfast fundraiser on Friday for Huntsman. Each is giving his campaign $2,500, according to an invitation obtained by The Post.

University of Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell, who is Mormon, said many in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider a donation to Romney or Huntsman a sort of down payment on the prospect that they could help bring the faith into the cultural mainstream.

“I think that 2012 will be remembered as a pretty important year for Mormons,” Campbell said, adding that Romney or Huntsman could “become the JFK of Mormons and put the religion question to rest.”

Several stories, like this other Washington Post piece, that focus on Huntsman and Romney's faith are quick to point that a Mormon candidate could have trouble among evangelical voters. However, if you look closely at some recent polls, you'll see that Democrats also report reluctance to vote for a Mormon candidate.

Pew, for instance, finds that while 34 percent of evangelicals said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate, 41 percent of liberal Democrats said the same thing. Similarly, a Los Angeles Times poll showed that 27 percent of Democrats said they would oppose a Mormon candidate, compared to 18 percent of Republicans who said the same thing. Perhaps reporters could explore why that might be the case. Is it simply because they believe the only Mormon candidates they know who might run for president are Republican? Would Sen. Harry Reid's faith be a key issue for his own party if he ran? Yes, the Iowa primary comes first, but the Democratic reluctance could be an interesting story to explore down the road.

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