How Mitt Romney's Supporters Are Like Uncle Leo

We always knew that Mormonism was going to be a touchy issue in this presidential campaign. After all, there are still many Americans who express discomfort with the idea of a Mormon president (up to 40 percent, depending on how you ask the question). But it's one thing when you ask that question in the abstract, and quite another when we're talking about a particular Mormon. In that case, I'm fairly sure that nearly everyone is going to decide their votes on how they feel about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, not how they feel about Joseph Smith. Even Robert Jeffress, the Baptist minister and Rick Perry supporter who only a couple of months ago denounced Mormonism as a "cult," just announced that he'll be supporting a member of that cult for president, since Obama is so vile unto his sight. But all that doesn't mean that the Romney campaign and its supporters aren't going to be on the lookout for any anti-Mormon slights, so long as they come from Democrats.

You may remember that back in August, the Obama campaign called Romney "weird," and conservatives immediately rushed to charge that this was a dog whistle to anti-Mormon voters, since "weird" is obviously code for "Mormon." And now it's starting up again. Alec MacGillis at TNR has a good roundup of some recent cries of anti-Mormonism from Romney supporters, including the idea that when the Obama campaign criticized Romney for a "penchant for secrecy," they were plainly trying to get people to think "Mormon!" because the LDS church is secretive.

This is all pretty ridiculous, not least because you have a situation where the supporters of one candidate are accusing the supporters of another candidate of dog whistling on a topic both actual candidates have no desire at all to discuss. Furthermore, the voters most likely to feel a strong aversion to Mormonism are evangelical Christians, who vote overwhelmingly Republican anyway, and it isn't like too many of them are going to be persuaded to vote for Barack Obama based on some winking and nodding about "weirdness." There are so many other things that the Obama campaign wants to attack Romney on; they hardly need to invest energy in trying to get people to vote against him because of his religion, which would risk an enormous backlash.

So Romney's supporters end up sounding a lot like the old Jewish man who sees anti-Semitism everywhere. Romney's weird? Anti-Mormonism! Romney's secretive? Anti-Mormonism! Romney's stiff? Anti-Mormonism! It brings to mind this classic from Annie Hall, where Woody Allen is convinced that when someone said "Did you eat?" to him, what the guy was really saying was, "Jew eat?"

And though it can't be embedded, here's a link to Uncle Leo.

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