In his latest column, the National Review’s Rich Lowry accuses the media of not falling over themselves to write glowing articles about Gov. Mitt Romney:
For once, the media aren’t so thrilled by a “first.” Usually being the first African-American, woman, Latino, or anything else to run for a major office gives a campaign a frisson of excitement in the press. Such pioneering campaigns are said to hold important lessons about the tolerance of the American public.
But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney represents the first “first” that has elicited a lukewarm reaction from the media. Journalists constantly run stories about whether Romney can become the first Mormon president — with an undercurrent suggesting that they’d be just fine if he can’t.
A trope in Romney-as-Mormon stories is that evangelical Christians won’t be able to vote for a Mormon. There is a whiff of wishfulness to this, as if reporters hope evangelicals prove as bigoted as reporters have always suspected they were. There is certainly resistance to a Mormon candidate among some evangelicals, but the harshest anti-Mormon condemnations have come from the left.
So, according to Lowry, it is the media that is creating a “trope” about right-wing voters being unwilling to support. Well, if the media has gotten the idea that a certain segment of the GOP’s right-wing base would be uncomfortable supporting Romney because of his religion, it must have come from somewhere. But where?
Maybe from the various right-wing voters and leaders saying it:
A prominent and powerful evangelical Christian leader, James Dobson, said yesterday that the Mormon faith practiced by Governor Romney of Massachusetts could pose a serious obstacle if Mr. Romney makes a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
“I don’t believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon but that remains to be seen, I guess,” Mr. Dobson said on a syndicated radio program hosted by a conservative commentator, Laura Ingraham.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public-policy arm: “But he’s gotta close the deal. Only Romney can make voters comfortable with his Mormonism. Others cannot do it for him.”
Selecting presidential candidate Mitt Romney as its May commencement speaker has riled some of Regent University’s students and alumni who say his Mormon faith clashes with the school’s bedrock evangelical Christianity.
“What we’re against is the fact that Mormonism is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Christian values and what we believe,” said Doug Dowdey, a Virginia Beach pastor who said he graduated from Regent’s divinity school last year.
How many voters does insurance broker Frank Senger of Newport Beach, Calif., represent?
“No way will I be voting for Mitt Romney,” he insists. A Republican and a lifelong Baptist, he abhors the thought of voting for a Mormon for president and says “there’s more to it than just some prejudice. It bothers me a whole lot that someone that bright could fall for the stories about where Mormonism came from, and all that blather about the golden tablets. If he’ll fall for that, do I want him in the same room and at the same table with Kim Jong-il of North Korea or Ahmadinejad from Iran?”
While some evangelical Christians are defending the presidential candidacy of Mormon Mitt Romney from an attack by Al Sharpton, another prominent pastor is going further in his condemnation – saying a vote for the former Massachusetts governor is a vote for Satan.
That’s the word from Bill Keller, host of the Florida-based Live Prayer TV program as well as LivePrayer.com.
“If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!” he writes in his daily devotional to be sent out to 2.4 million e-mail subscribers tomorrow.
Larry Gordon, senior pastor of Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, said his initial instinct was to rule out Mr. Romney because of his faith. But after his son, who is also a pastor at the church, came away impressed by Mr. Romney after an event, he began to examine him more closely.
“If nobody better comes along, I’m going to vote for him,” Mr. Gordon said. “But I’m hoping somebody better comes along.”