Why Marco Rubio’s Mormon past doesn't matter

at 02:30 PM ET, 02/23/2012

BuzzFeed broke the story Thursday morning — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an outspoken Catholic, was for a few short years of his life a Mormon.

Rubio was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at age eight, and his family was active in their local Nevada church community. His returned to the Catholic Church a few years later, by the time he was 12, and subsequently moved to Miami.*

While he mentions his Catholicism frequently, Rubio also attends a non-denominational church.

Despite his frequent protests, Rubio is on every vice-presidential short list. But would former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, be less willing to choose a running mate with Mormonism in his past? Probably not.

“There’s tons of idiots in the world,” said Chuck Warren, a Republican consultant who has worked with numerous Mormon candidates. But the “vast majority of Americans,” he argued, wouldn’t care. “I really don’t think the country does that kind of litmus test at this point in our history,” Warren said. “People change religions, it’s America.”

Considerable skepticism about Mormonism still exists, particularly among white evangelicals. Thirty-one percent of all Americans and 47 percent of white evangelical Protestants think Mormonism is not a Christian religion, according to Pew.

But it’s not clear that Romney needs to worry about those voters: Among white evangelical Republican voters, 91 percent said in November that they would back Romney over Obama in a general election matchup.

Rubio could be damaged in another way. He’s never brought up his family’s Mormon past when discussing his faith. (The senator will discuss his faith journey in more detail in his upcoming book, “An American Son,” a spokesman said.)

Along with the inconsistencies in his accounts of his parents’ journey from Cuba to America, it could feed into the idea that he shapes his own history for his political convenience. But most successful politicians focus on certain parts of their biographies and tailor their focus for their audiences (including President Obama.)

And Rubio’s hardly the first politician with a complicated religious history — Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback (R) converted to Catholicism but still attends an evangelical church.

So while Rubio’s Mormon past adds a fascinating twist to the story of the Republican rising star, it’s not likely to stop that rise.

* The timing in this sentence has been corrected.

 
Read what others are saying