Republican Primary Mutterings
I've long been curious how this branch of the Republican party will react to the Mormon Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts. A number of the Redstate insiders, some of whom work on campaigns or lobby in DC, debated Romney's Mormonism yesterday, and it's pretty illuminating. Start here, and scroll up for the latest.
This post by Erick Erickson, who I believe is a professional activist, confirms my own predictions:
... I don't think Romney will be able to effectively make it through South Carolina or the rest of the South unless he takes significant steps to distance himself from being a Mormon. Why? Because most Southerners I know -- whether they be Democrat, Republican, Independent, Catholic, Prostestant, or Agnostic -- see Mormonism as a cult and not a religion. It is part of Southern culture.There's also a funny exchange about whether Romney actually practices his faith, or whether he's a "secular Mormon" or a "jack Mormon." (Let me answer the last one: if he's running around proclaiming his faith and campaigning as a Mormon, then he's not a jack Mormon. It's very possible that he's a cynical Mormon, however.)
Romney may very well be able to position himself in such a way that he can overcome that, but I doubt it.
Augustine and I had lunch with Jonathan Chait a while back and were talking about this. I told him about my grandmother. One day I went into her house, opened the closet to get out a blanket, and a pile of Books of Mormon fell out.
Shocked that my grandmother might be converting I asked her what all those books were in there for. She looked at me and said, "As long as they're giving them to me, they aren't giving them to anyone else."
While my grandmother died a few years ago, that attitude is still very, very prevalent among what political types would call "the base" in the South.
Here's a refreshingly reasonable comment from Allison Hayward, whom I don't know, despite my general familiarity with the site:
If we're voting: I like Mormons (some of my closest relatives are LDS). As Mormonism matures, I think there will be a broader swath of philosophy within that faith, and it will be harder to generalize about what "Mormons" think or what they're "like." (It seems to me that a substantial portion of that road has been travelled, actually.) So being LDS will be politically meaningless. If you learn someone is Episcopalian or Lutheran, what does that tell you?I suspect that this sort of reasonableness might not survive a divisive primary. As the pro-life diehard Leon H Wolf writes, people who have some contact with Mormons will be more likely to tolerate or even admire individual adherents. Still, the South matters more than the Sunbelt in primary campaigns, and the South remains deeply suspicious of LDS history and beliefs.
I can't wait to see how this plays out.
[Update. Redstate readers respond to the editors' above discussion with two diaries, both of which argue, roughly, that by running on "values" more generally, Romney could diffuse sectarian concerns.]