My Take: GOP presidential field at odds with Americans' self-image
Mitt Romney in Michigan last week.
May 16th, 2011
10:05 AM ET

My Take: GOP presidential field at odds with Americans' self-image

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

All presidential candidates have flaws. But American voters want their presidents to seem presidential. What that means is that they want their presidents to look like them. Or, to be more precise, to look like they imagine themselves to be.

On this score, at least, the emerging GOP presidential field has three strikes against it.

Likely contender Mitt Romney may be tall, dark and handsome, but he didn’t do himself any favors by equivocating last week about the Massachusetts health care plan he signed into law as governor—a plan some are now referring to as Romneycare. Moreover, he is vulnerable for his resume as a moderate Republican.

But the real challenge for Romney, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, continues to be his religion.

Yes, the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom, and there is no religious test in the Constitution. But many on the Religious Right think that Mormons aren't really Christians and many on the secular left think Mormons are too conservative.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, 24% of Americans would not vote for an otherwise qualified Mormon nominated by their party for president. And that is bad news not only for Mitt Romney but also for President Barack Obama's former Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, who is another Mormon mulling a presidential bid.

In this same 2007 Gallup poll, Americans were asked whether they would vote for an otherwise qualified candidate who was married for the third time. Thirty percent said no.

The question was designed to address the potential candidacy of Newt Gingrich, who has been divorced twice and married three times, and who officially launched his presidential campaign last week. Now it now applies as well to Donald Trump, who is also working on marriage number three.

Although the divorce rate in the United States is approaching 50%, Americans have elected only one divorced president: Ronald Reagan. That's bad news as well for Indiana governor and potential 2012 candidate Mitch Daniels, who was divorced from his first wife in 1994 before reconciling with and remarrying her in 1997.

Speaking of Daniels, there is that pesky problem of his height, which is officially 5 foot, 8 inches.

Study after study has shown that tall people make more money and rise higher in the corporate ranks than short people do. This bias is so clear, and so palpably unfair, that a Harvard economics professor N. Gregory Mankiw has argued for a tax on tall people.

But this heightism, if you will, is also clear in the Oval Office. Many of America’s greatest presidents — John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt — have stood 6 feet or taller. And Abraham Lincoln towered above his fellow citizens at 6-foot-4.

Short men, by contrast, don’t usually get elected president. The last president who was substantially below average in height was Benjamin Harrison, elected in 1888. Short men who have managed to sneak into office have not fared as well as their taller colleagues (Jimmy Carter stands a bit over 5-foot-9).

Mitch Daniels, through no fault of his own, is a lesser man. President Obama, for the record, is 6-foot-1.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Health care • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Polls • Uncategorized • United States

soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. Gop

    @ Max O2

    it is ignorant people like you that voted for Obama the twit the first time. but the way our country is going and nothing has gotten much better I don't think you will get enough ignorant people like yourself to get him reelected. but please do try!

    May 16, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Eric the Purple

      Gop, we know you're not ignorant yourself. You just don't know very much and you can't think very well.

      May 17, 2011 at 12:58 am |
  2. Nathan

    I would bet that most of the people that have said that you can't trust or vote for Newt b/c he's a cheat, voted for Clinton. Now I happen to agree that you can't trust a cheat, but I didn't vote for Clinton either. Why is it that liberals "overlook" the rotten morals of their own candidates, but make them a big deal for a "conservative" candidate.

    May 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Eric the Purple

      Bit of a sequence issue in what you said there. Clinton's cheating wasn't apparent to most of the electorate till after he was elected, so people couldn't have considered it and it wasn't a factor. In the present case, everyone already knows Newt can't control his tewt.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  3. Greg

    And none (GOP) shall pass

    May 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  4. TOM


    May 16, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  5. Denizen Kate

    A divorced candidate may be okay, but it depends upon why he or she is divorced. In the case of Newt, he's twice divorced because he cheated on his first two wives, which makes him both weak and sleazy. Those are not presidential qualities. Anyone who believes he won't do it again needs to hear the fable of the frog and the scorpion. He's a cheat, he's always been a cheat, he'll always be a cheat. Period.

    May 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  6. gil oberdas

    Just what we need a member of a cult leading America!

    May 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Jared

      "Cult" really? If you are referring to the Mormon chuch, I suggest you put down the anti-mormon garbage you have been reading and examine the fruits of that organization. "By their fruits ye shall know them" Jesus said that... ironically enough to the Jewish community who were convinced Jesus was a leader of a anti messianic "cult". Consider the humanitarian efforts of that church, consider the educational opportunities provided to tens of thousands, english as a second language classes, farming advice and food relief to developing nations, and on and on. If the mormon church is your definition of a cult then I think I would like to see a lot more cults!!

      May 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  7. joemama

    Opinions are like azzholes, everybody is...err...... has one.

    May 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  8. ScottK

    Mitt Romney is a Merman!!

    May 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  9. jean2009

    Ron Paul scares me the most..."Making doctors slaves", "FEMA is not something a country should do for its citizens". It sounds to me like the same tired old rich guy refrain who doesn't care how he made his money or who slaved to help him make it,or whose back he climbed up on to get to the top...screw everyone I've got mine mentality.
    Romney denying his and Ted Kennedy's plan which was originally Ted Kennedy and Nixon's plan should be equal for everyone, and work for the rest of America is a non-starter. That state's rights piece of history was put to bed with the Civil War. Why should only states with Democratic governor's and state assemblies have a right to affordable health care insurance and costs? Basically that is the pitch he is making while he passed the Obama bill without the costs saving in Massachusetts. If it is good for uninsured people who can't buy reasonable health insurance in Massachusetts without their plan.... why not Ohio, or Iowa...etc.? Why should those who have insurance in Ohio and Iowa be paying more for their insurance premium because the uninsured showing up at emergency rooms are making their insurance rates higher. Only because Rethugliklans' in DC are in bed with the lobbyist from the Insurance industry. People voting Rethugliklan generally are checking their brain at the door unless they are super wealthy.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Peter

      I would imagine that the health insurance companies can't wait for the reforms to kick in. They will be getting 30million new customers won't they?

      May 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Alex in NJ

      If Ron Paul scares you I would love to have seen your reaction in the 1770's. Jefferson would have scared the hell out of you. Ron Paul won't get elected because neither side will let him. The media on both sides, MSNBC and sort of CNN on the left and Fox on the right will do everything to discredit him. He would be a nightmare for all the special interests whether you are talking about the Israel Lobby, the derivatives and currency traders, the welfare state advocates, the Saudi Royal Family etc.. The people who would benefit from a Ron Paul administration though are the vast majority of the American people.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Teo

      Agree. Ron Paul's statements on FEMA are disturbing. I am tired of hearing comments from my "in-your-face" Christian friends, like after Katrina; "Why should we help them?" Ron Paul said something like, "people shouldn't live near the coast and force other Americans to pay for their misfortune." So I guess Americans shouldn't build houses in the middle of Alabama or anywhere else tornadoes form? Don't build homes anywhere near the Mississippi Valley because you will either be flooded or your home will be sucked into the New Madrid fault during the next big earthquake. Speaking of quakes, no homes should be built in California, Alaska, or Hawaii. Oh and what about volcanoes? No homes for Hawaii again, or in Washington state, or no where near Yellowstone. FEMA is for the benefit of everyone, because no one in the United States is immune to natural disasters. Eliminating FEMA would be the most un-Christlike thing the right could try to do.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  10. Divorced Public Official

    Being divorced should not be a concern to voters per se. What disqualifies Gingrich is the cause of his divorces. He was unfaithful to his first two wives. A man that will cheat on his wife and break the solemn vows of marriage will cheat you and break his other vows as well. Never trust an adulterer.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • maty

      I lean Republican and wholeheartedly agree! Divorce isn't a dealbreaker, not as far as a politician goes. That said, several of these adulterers just cannot be trusted, still married or separated.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  11. smarter human

    Let's see you have the pedophile, the thief, the liar, the adulterer or the blowhard...which one shall I NOT vote for?

    May 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  12. jean2009

    Rethugliklans just can't refrain from trying to push their belief's down everybody's throat...the only problem is it is "do as I say not as I do." wink, wink hyprocrites' bent on rejecting people's right, bigots, KKK Teanuts, and greedy old low minimum wage/union busting rich guys all lumped together in one big dysfunctional tent.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Alex in NJ

      Very close minded assessment. Oh and learn how to spell.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • pat carr

      oh and like cons don't have the same hate? i've seen "obimbo", "odumbo", "obummer" on here. live in a glass house? don't throw stones

      May 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  13. Bob in Pa

    Finally, CNN has inched into Humor.

    But I will agree, that most Democrats and several left leaning independents think this way. It is scary when you hear a somewhat drafty 55 year old woman exclam " He just doesn't look Presidential, know what I mean." The lack of real reporting and the addiction to reality shows has left us with a somewhat uninformed population.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  14. Rick McDaniel

    More importantly, the GOP has yet, to field a candidate that rejects the party bigotry of anti-women's rights, and anti-gay people's rights.

    If no candidate comes forth that rejects those 2 issues, the GOP will have a tough time mounting a viable candidate. Americans are tired of bigotry.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  15. Barking Alien

    Religion, height, hair color. Who cares about these superficial qualities. Give me someone who is competent and can solve the problems. If this is a popularity contest like American Idol then our values as a country has gone down the tubes.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Agreed! I don't care if a candidate looks like a cave troll, as long as he or she is competent, hires good help, and can get the job done. They can worship Bugs Bunny for all I care.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • maty

      Tell that to Kucinich and Dukakis.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  16. Reality

    There's actually quite a lot to like about Romney if you're a republican by temperment......and in fact, he does oppose abortion."

    And that is exactly why Romney or any other prolife candidate has no chance in 2012 i.e. the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will do so in the years to come. The 78+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" (in 2012) of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year.

    2008 Presidential popular vote count 69,456,897 for BO 59,934,814 for JM
    (there were an estimated 70 million members of the "Immoral Majority" in 2008)

    Once again, the driving force behind the "Immoral Majority" is their irresponsibility by not using the Pill and the male condom properly.

    o Bottom Line #1: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    Bottom line #2-
    Currently, a perfect birth control barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one! In the meantime, mono-ma-sturbation or mutual ma-sturbation are highly recommended for hete-rose-xuals who need a contraceptive. Abstinence is another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?

    May 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  17. jean2009

    The problem with the Republican field is they won't admit it is time for the Nixon Health Care plan. They want to gut the Obama plan which is the same as the Romney and Nixon plans so that the Health Insurance and Health Vendor corporations don't have to comply with the provisions that would help cut costs. Basically it just bums them out that a democrat passed their legislation and they didn't get the bragging rights...about like all this pained squawking about about who should get the credit for bin Laden.
    They are dead set on anything that will help the unemployed. It is a very sad day when there only objective is to not raise taxes back to a level that was a bargain on those that can very well afford it. When you can't afford to care for those who need help it is definitely time to cut federal welfare for the rich.

    May 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Patrick

      Actually, the problem with the Republican field of candidates is the fact that not one of them can defeat Obama. Not one of them has charisma or can inspire you to do anything other than fall asleep.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  18. David

    As a democrat, I say to the Republikkkans...please please nominate the salamander..uh, I mean the newt!!

    May 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Shabby Peasant

      "She turned me into a NEWT!

      May 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Knight


      May 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Alex in NJ

      I don't get it, what's with the spelling of Republicans??? Oh wait I get it, you are trying to insinuate Republicans are racist by spelling it with a, "KKK." Typical Democrat. You are too dumb to win on fact or logic so you try and discredit your opponents with outlandish claims. It seems so many on the hate filled Left also have such small minds.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • French Democrat

      @Alex in NJ

      Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!

      May 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      @Alex in NJ, I'm also tired of the name-calling on both sides. I can't begin to count the number of times I've seen Democrats and liberals referred to in these comment sections as libtards, or libturds. Pot, meet kettle.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  19. Mark

    The Obama Press Cannot hype their idol this time around

    May 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Todd (no, not that one)

      And you are apparently unable to form a pertinent comment.

      May 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Patrick

      The "Obama Press"? You mean the same "press" that kept alive the idea of him not being a US citizen? Surely you can do better than that pathetic sentence. Liberal media. Obama press. Give me a break.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Gop

      you're 100% correct.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Max O2

      Repubs gonna lose again to 'Bama. Way behind in polls, frustrations showing. Na na, you LOSERS are gonna lose again this time. Na na na. I f-art in your general direction.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Gop


      If you are trying to get the press job for Obama then you might well be on your way. you tow the same line as the liberal media does. every one just makes up stories about Poor little Obama and Bush is to blame for everthing wrong with the country. you believe Obama had nothing to do with the story about him not being a US citizen. All he had to do it show proof two years ago and story fades away. but he let it become an issue so he is as much to blame as the ignorant people that fell for it.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • pat carr

      Why do the people on here defending the GOP or putting down obama seem to struggle with coherent sentences or spelling?

      May 16, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  20. Bill

    What a stupid article. People have also been elected to public office who have been caught on camera buying drugs. DUH!
    Should this lead us to make projections of this characteristic to predict who could win or lose?

    May 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • runswithbeer

      Hmmmm "Likely contender Mitt Romney may be tall, dark and handsome, " I though Obama was "tall, dark and handsome" Isn't Mitt Romney tall, LIGHT and handsome, Just saying. There's not a lot separating the two beyond that. One's barely a Republican and the other's barely a Democrat. If they had a footrace to the center it'd be two steps and bang right into each other.

      May 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • runswithbeer

      I don't know, ya got to wonder about his under garments. Who gives a rat's a about his religion. It's how much you use the Presidency to proselytize your religion more than your specific religion that matters. No matter what your religion you're gonna offend someone.

      May 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Gop

      they will do anything to make it seem that if you belong to the Gop you need not apply for president. these bias clowns will do anything to make a story out of nothing. Obama can be as tell as a tree but he is as dumb as a stump.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Patrick

      To the guy who calls himself "Gop":

      So Obama as as "dumb as a stump?" That's laughable, dude. He was a law professor and graduate of Harvard. Dumb as a stump? I think you'd better take a look at the candidates you've got for the GOP.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Gop

      Obama might have been a law professor and graduate of Harvard but does that prove he is not as dumb as a stump? Do you have his transcripts? Do you have anything that proves what he did while he was there? I am sorry but I base this opinion on what he is doing now with our country not what he might or might not have done in collage.

      I have taken a good look at the candidates in the GOP and not one of them has ever been a community organizer. They either have been in the private business or ran a state as Governor. They are smarter and more qualified then Obama would be on his best day.

      Therefore, I still say Obama is as dumb as a stump. Maybe you just have your head so far up his backside you cannot see what he is.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Slop

      Gop yah we republicans sure is smart. And nice like Newt Gingrinch there too. He married so many wimmin to help them all out didn he.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Gop

      What is the relevance of how many times I person is married? Does that make him a poor choice for president just because he cannot find the right person to spend his whole life with? This is a none factor. Now will he get the votes that he needs to run as the GOP candidate I don’t think so but it won’t be because of his failed marriages.

      May 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • pat carr

      "dumb as a stump" – LOL. This coming from someone who can't even spell "college" correctly. Our country IS better than it was before and if you can't see that, you don't even have a head to stick up your backside

      May 16, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Gop

      you have little room to speak did you not write " So Obama as as "dumb as a stump?" I might have made a typo, but you seem make a mistake as well. you just upset that someone like me happens to not be in love with Obama the way you are. pull your head out of his backside and grow up.

      May 16, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • pat carr

      If you're going to criticize Obama's intelligence, then possess some yourself. Where did you learn "dumb as a stump"? Special Olympics?

      May 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Hitch


      ‘I have taken a good look at the candidates in the GOP and not one of them has ever been a community organizer. They either have been in the private business or ran a state as Governor.’

      Why is having been involved in a private business a sound qualification for the head of government is what I’d like to know? Why do GOP affiliates gush over & think this is the paramount measuring stick to determine if one it fit to run a govt office or not?

      How a business operate & function aren’t at all in principle how a govt, which is representative & responsible for the welfare of the common good of the citizens, function. Even were a person a great CEO, I wouldn’t trust them to run a social organization like a govt body which is answerable to the whole of society & not merely some small group of private investors or fellow executives.

      For one a business’s sole purpose is to make money, & that is regardless of any social, environmental, or other concerns or ills for the public. If it means higher pollution levels & more kids get infectious diseases & have respiratory diseases, oh well, it’s all good since it resulted in more margin & thus created more wealth from capital for the business. Unlike a CEO who is concerned mostly with ensuring the stock prices only goes up & is consequently only concerned with profitability & not any social consequences. Who is the CEO answerable to but a small grouping of highly paid executives & profligate stock traders? Conversely, a head of state is answerable to the majority of the society whom can vote & therefore their actions must be congruent with the needs not of the select & privileged few, but rather the masses.

      Operating as a community organizer allows one to see firsthand how people are effected by social changes governments enact, whereas a filthy rich CEO who’s aligned with lobbyists to ensure subsidies for higher margins insulates themselves, like feudal lords in years past living in castles whilst the commoner peasants mill the land for substance. A community organizer would at least on this be more in tune with the needs of the people whom they’re to represent, whereas a person born of privilege has no such life experiences.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Gop

      @pat carr

      Well the term "Dumb as a Stump" is an old saying. One I am sure you younger people do not know or understand it's meaning or roots. You seem more concerned about coherent sentences or spelling and not about the issue. Yes, you seem to gloss over the real issue about the topic and focus on something so trivial as spelling. You are as most Liberals when your argument fails you revert to picking out poor grammar. Wow, you are so smart! Not! Stay on issue Pat, even if it is hard for you in your ADHD life.

      May 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Gop

      Well, Hitch
      Have you ever ran a private business or been a CEO? Do you know what it means to grow a company and make it profitable? Do you know what it is to be in the Red and bring your coming back from the brink of bankruptcy? I am sure Obama has no clue how to do any of that! and yet you think he is the best person to run a country.

      I do believe that paramount measuring stick to determine if one can lead a country is based on how one might run a business or a state government. I will take real experience over your life experience any day of the week.

      Sorry to disagree with you but business’s sole purpose is not to make just make money. In fact business’s do far more for social, environmental, or other concerns then your love of big Government. They give more money to charities then you could ever dream of.

      In addition, if not for all the tax revenue they generate your government would not be able to spend trillions on worthless programs.

      So you think a community organizer allows one to see firsthand how people are effected by social changes governments enact. Gee I notice you did not say they see first hand how big fat cat CEO’s destroy the common man in the name for huge profit. Why is that?

      Your community organizer does not seem to give a care about the commoner peasants you speak of. He and his party just want to tax more and spend more. How does that help the common person? It might make people like you happy that he is sticking it to the rich fat cats that you hate so much but in the end commoner peasants like yourself will be more effected then you might think. Since your friend Obama has taken office has, any prices came down? How is that price of gas going for you and the price of food?

      If you smoke, how did you like that $1 more a pack tax Obama signed right after he took office?

      Therefore, you liberals like the new term "life experiences". Wow, that is lame. Any one that lives has life experiences! That is an ignorant way to ascertain a person’s abilities and experience!

      I point out the problem is you believe our Government is a social organization. It was never meant to become that Sir. The Government was meant to Govern and protect our country. It was not meant to be a social welfare state!

      You just seem to be the type of person that blames companies for all the problems and believe the Government is here to make things fair for you. The problem is life is not fair. It will never be fair. And the government can steal as much money as they can from the people that earn it, but it will never be enough to satisfy people like you that feel life should be fair!

      May 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.