The Deseret News recently explored the different ways potential presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John Huntsman might handle the issue of their Mormonism (something Politico tackled here), and the article included a revelation I hadn't noticed before:
It's early, but Huntsman's strategy seems to be different. In a recent interview, he insisted that he was not "overly religious" and said, "I get satisfaction from many different types of religions and philosophies."
Thanks for playing, Gov. Huntsman! We have some lovely consolation prizes for you.
Here's the rule on presidential candidates and religion: You're supposed to say that your faith is deeply important to you -- in fact, it forms the basis of everything you believe about the world and every decision you make. However, questions about the specifics of that faith are off-limits.
This applies to all candidates, not just Mormons. But it's particularly useful to Mormons, since most people think they believe some pretty wacky stuff. Of course, you can argue that believing that in Pennsylvania in 1827, Joseph Smith dug up a set of golden plates on which was written the word of God is no more odd than believing that Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with a set of stone tablets a few thousand years before, or that Jesus walked on water and turned water into wine. The latter two are just more familiar, and therefore don't seem ridiculous.
In a Republican primary, however, there is only one kind of religious belief that's acceptable: the strong kind. Yes, there are some evangelicals who consider Mormonism an evil cult and will therefore not vote for Romney, Huntsman, or any other Mormon. And if Eric Cantor (the only Jewish Republican in Congress) ran for president, I'm sure we'd find out that all that Judeophilia in the GOP has its limits. But generally speaking, different denominations are accepted, so long as you are a fervent supporter of Team Jesus.
The way you handle this question in a Republican primary -- and the way that Mitt Romney did last time around -- is to draw a line not between Christian denominations but between believers and non-believers, between the godly and the godless. That way, you're on the same side as most every GOP primary voter, whether Mormon or Baptist or Episcopalian. Mike Huckabee, a smooth-talking character if ever there was one, shows how it's done:
Not that it was in all that much doubt before, but I'm pretty sure that saying he's not "overly religious" guarantees that John Huntsman will not be the Republican nominee in 2012.
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