Mitt Romney's presidential campaign continues to be dogged by his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here's the fifth paragraph of a Friday New York Times piece, "Romney Works to Put Skeptics' Doubts to Rest":
In national polls, Mr. Romney is still sometimes in single digits. But his more immediate problem, given his need to do well among Republican primary voters in the first contests early next year, may be the continued concerns of many conservative Christians about his religion -- some evangelicals view Mormonism as something akin to a cult -- and his relatively recent shift from supporter of abortion rights to opponent.
So some Christians believe that Mormonism is a cult. They have theological "issues." Oh, they get that polygamy is no longer part of Mormonism. But it's "something akin to a cult," whatever that means. Any chance we could get someone to explain what those theological issues are? What makes Mormonism a cult theologically? Why in the world would anyone ever think that?
If we are going to talk about people's issue with the Mormon faith, can we talk about what Mormons believe? Why is that some Christians are saying that they might vote for Hillary Clinton over Romney? Here's The New Republic's Michelle Cottle:
One prominent activist graciously took time out from burning an effigy of Rudy What's-the-Big-Deal-About-Roe? Giuliani to share this tidbit: "I asked a friend of mine who's a pastor in Middle America, 'You have a choice between two candidates: Hillary Clinton versus someone who is good on social issues and who is a Mormon.' And my friend said, 'I don't think I could vote for a Mormon.'"
Think about that: A social conservative is given the choice between a Mormon and Hillary Clinton -- the modern personification of Evil for GOP wingers -- and he can't make up his mind? This does not bode well for Mitt's fortunes in the Heartland.
Yes, talking about someone's faith requires some space and time. It's not necessarily going to fit in the average daily news story. But I'm not sure that's what reporters want in this case. Given the chance, did CBS's 60 Minutes take its hefty chunk of time devoted to the issue to ask Romney some serious questions? Sadly, the answer seems to be no. According to excerpts on the Drudge Report, Mike Wallace asked about Romney's views on polygamy and whether he engaged in premarital sex.
Now this may not be the entire issue, and it would hardly be the first time Drudge highlighted the sex angle in a story, but this does not bode well for a serious discussion of Romney's faith and why some serious people (not Al Sharpton) would consider Mormonism a cult.
In an interesting development, Romney's campaign has sent Mark DeMoss to help court evangelical voters. His clients include Franklin Graham and he's meeting with conservative Christian leaders in South Carolina, Iowa and other places, according to the Times:
Mr. DeMoss had his first meetings with evangelical pastors in Greenville, S.C., on Wednesday. The pastors appeared receptive and some were even enthusiastic, he said, but most continue to hold back from public support.
"The idea of an evangelical supporting a Mormon for president, it's a new idea," he said. "This scenario has never presented itself before. And because of that, and because of the theological issues that some people have raised, I think a lot of evangelicals are just approaching this very cautiously."
Again there is no discussion of serious theological issues. Should these be campaign issues? If they are affecting a major presidential candidate's campaign, then yes they are issues. Of course Romney could make it easier on reporters and address them front and center akin to John F. Kennedy, but apparently that's not likely to happen anytime soon.
Editor's note: this post previously said that Mark DeMoss was hired by the Romney campaign. This is incorrect. DeMoss says he has not been hired for any purpose.