President Obama’s “religion” may be just as much of a liability as Mitt Romney’s (actual) Mormon religion.
According to a new poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more people are concerned about Obama’s religion (19 percent) than about Romney’s (13 percent).
The reason? The unbelievable number of Americans, now numbering 17 percent, who for some reason think the president is a Muslim.
So while there has been a lot of consternation about whether Americans will be hesitant to vote for a Mormon like Romney, misinformation about Obama’s religion may matter just as much come November.
We wrote last week that Catholics may be the ultimate 2012 bellwether as they have bounced back in between the two parties over the past decade and, almost always, wound up voting for the winner.
One of the main reasons that Catholics tend to function as an accurate election predictor is because there are large numbers of them in the upper Midwest, a traditional swing area between the two parties.
Here’s a map released last week from the 2010 U.S. Religion Census that details where across American Catholics live:
That same study, however, shows that the Catholic population has declined in the Midwest (and the Northeast) for each of the last five decades while the religion continues to grow in the South and West. Catholics have also declined by roughly five percent nationwide since 2000, according to Cliff Grammich who helped compile the data on Catholics for the study.
Forget Mormonism; the real story in the Republican Party right now is the rise of the Catholics.
Republicans, who according to Smart Politics have put a Catholic on the ticket just once before (vice presidential candidate William Miller in 1964), seem to be experiencing something of a Catholic renaissance.
First, a pair of Catholics in Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum gave Mitt Romney a run for his money in the nominating contest, and now, four of the five politicians seen as most likely to join Romney on the ticket are Catholic as well.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) — four of the five most likely GOP VP choices, according to InTrade — are all Catholic, not to mention other people thought to be contenders, like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.).
In other words, most of the top contenders are Catholic.
Mitt Romney’s opponents really never had much of a chance in Nevada.
And it’s largely because of Romney’s Mormon religion.
While Romney’s faith has rightly been described as a liability in previous states — most notably Iowa and South Carolina, where evangelical Christians have balked at supporting Romney — it’s hard to call it anything but a trump card in Nevada (so to speak).
And, in fact, it made it virtually impossible for anybody to beat Romney.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is out with a new television ad in Iowa that accuses President Obama of engaging in a “war on religion” and criticizes his decision to overturn the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gays in the military.
“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian,” the Texas governor says in the spot. “But you don’t have to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion, and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”
Bill Burton, a former Obama White House aide who now runs a super PAC supportive of the president, tweeted that the Perry ad was “astonishingly intolerant”.
In a press conference to announce that he had won the support of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney made another bit of news. He called on his presidential rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to repudiate Pastor Robert Jeffress’ belief that Mormonism is a “cult.”
Jeffress endorsed Perry at last weekend’s Values Voter summit, an event organized by the Christian conservative Family Research Council, and introduced the governor. He went on to tell reporters that he did not believe Romney to be a Christian and that Mormonism is a “cult.”