A Fox News host said Sunday that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is “obviously not ... a Christian,” a view that, if widely held, may have repercussions for the Mormon candidate’s election odds.
During a conversation about the Republican presidential field if Texas Gov. Rick Perry were to get into the race, “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt speculated that Perry would have a much better chance of raising funds and rallying the social conservative base since Perry is Christian and rather open about his faith. During an exchange with co-host Dave Briggs, Earhardt said :
“Well the Christian coalition … I think [Rick Perry] can get a lot of money from that base because [of] Romney obviously not being a Christian … Rick Perry, he’s always on talk shows, on Christian talk shows, he has days of prayer in Texas,” she said.
The question of whether or not Mormons are considered ‘Christians’ is sensitive and controversial. It is also consequential for Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman, whose Mormon faith puts them at a disadvantage in the polls. From the L.A. Times’ report on a June Gallup poll:
About one in five Republicans, or 18 percent, said they would not vote for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ... About the same proportion of independents said they would oppose a Mormon, while a larger number of Democrats, about 27 percent, said they were opposed, according to the poll.
Catholic and Protestant churches believe that Mormons errantly revere the Book of Mormon and the teachings of LDS leaders and prophets such as Joseph Smith. To non-Mormons, the Latter-day Saint revelations are extra-biblical, even heretical, though in recent months a number of prominent Christian leaders and thinkers have defended Mormonism’s values.
Analysts expect Romney and Huntsman’s Mormonism to become an issue on the campaign trail, and a video released last week by former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty’s campaign shows how the dynamic between Christian and Mormon candidates may play out.
While Romney has largely chosen not to speak about his faith during this election cycle, Pawlenty has been emphasizing his evangelical Christian credentials, declaring in the video: “I’m running for president because I love this country and I know it was founded under God and I’ve got the record, the results, the experience, the leadership, the judgment and the values and beliefs to lead it to a better place.”
Although Pawlenty’s video does not mention Mormonism, it does seem that he wants readers to factor the faith of their potential president into their vote.
Although the Mormon church claims to be one of the fastest-growing faiths, a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that less than 2 percent of Americans identify as Latter-day Saints. To contrast, 26 percent of Americans — and perhaps 60 percent of Iowa Republican primary voters — identify as evangelical Christians.
More On Faith:
Faith 2012: Tim Pawlenty calls Jesus his ‘political hero’
Panel debate: Is atheism going mainstream?
Mike Otterson: Why I won’t see the Book of Mormon musical
Clayton Christensen: Stephen Hawking and the experience of God
Mike Otterson: Is this really a ‘Mormon moment?’