June 2nd, 2011
03:04 PM ET
Is America ready for a Mormon president?
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) - Mitt Romney’s campaign team knows that his Mormon faith scared off Republican voters the last time he ran for president.
But they believe a lot has changed in the last four years.
For starters, Romney is now much better known. The former Massachusetts governor campaigned hard in the 2008 primaries – even addressing his Mormonism head-on in a major speech — and has stayed in the public eye since, popping up on late-night talk shows and on cable news channels.
Romney’s Mormonism, the thinking goes, is less exotic than it was four years ago because the candidate is more familiar.
Plus, unlike in 2008, there’s a Democrat in the White House for Republican voters to unite against. The Romney camp hopes the Obama factor will boost support for a battle-tested candidate who’s shown he can raise the hundreds of millions of dollars White House bids require, regardless of the candidate’s religious affiliation.
And unlike the 2008 Republican primaries, when George W. Bush was in the White House and debate over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan loomed large, next year’s elections are poised to hang on the economy. Not a bad time, maybe, for a guy with a Harvard MBA and a career spent turning around financially troubled companies and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“The country’s really in a tough situation — the economy’s in a bad place and so people suddenly think that a guy with Mitt Romney’s capacity and experience looks a lot more attractive than he did four years ago,” says Mark DeMoss, a senior adviser to Romney’s campaign, which launched Thursday.
“That makes his faith much less of an issue than it was four years ago,” says DeMoss, who is tasked with helping Romney woo evangelical voters, a huge chunk of the GOP base and a constituency that’s historically been wary of Mormonism.
Whether DeMoss is right may make the difference in whether Romney, the current Republican frontrunner based on polls and fundraising, can actually win the Republican nomination and, ultimately, the White House.
But Romney may not be the only Mormon running for president. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is seriously flirting with a presidential bid.
Huntsman, Obama’s former ambassador to China, recently took a five-day swing through New Hampshire, site of the first-in-the-nation Republican primary, and has hired staff in South Carolina, another key primary state.
The prospect of a Huntsman campaign means the nation could see an unprecedented test of whether the GOP — and, perhaps, the rest of the country — is ready for a Mormon president in an era when candidates’ religious beliefs have become weighty campaign issues.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is officially known, certainly seems eager for Mormonism to be less an issue in the presidential race than it was for Romney in 2008
“Recent media coverage seems to lean toward the conclusion that among many Americans, faith will be less of an issue in this election than it was in 2008,” church spokesman Michael Purdy said in a statement to CNN. “But it’s really for others to speculate on this.”
Public opinion polls suggest a lingering bias against Mormon candidates. A survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center found that a quarter of American adults admit to being less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate for president.
The survey found that resistance to Mormon candidates was even higher among two groups: liberal Democrats and evangelicals, who overwhelmingly vote Republican. One in three white evangelicals said they were less likely to support a Mormon candidate.
That creates a stiff headwind for Romney and Huntsman, given evangelicals’ primary power. In 2008, evangelicals accounted for 60 percent of Republican voters in Iowa, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, and in South Carolina, whose primaries come hard on the heels of New Hampshire’s.
In 2008, Romney’s Mormonism “was a real factor in Iowa and South Carolina that predisposed many potential voters to never to consider Romney or hear his message,” said Gary Marx, who directed conservative outreach for Romney the last time he ran.
That year, Romney placed second in Iowa and fourth in South Carolina behind then-frontrunner Mike Huckabee – a Baptist preacher who won major evangelical support.
Though Mormons consider themselves to be Christians, many evangelicals consider the Latter-day Saints to be a cult.
Evangelicals object to the Mormon belief that the Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God and to such Mormon practices as proxy baptisms for the dead. Evangelicals and Mormons also compete for converts.
Many evangelical leaders have discouraged their followers from translating such differences into opposition to Mormon candidates. But that message isn’t always heeded.
“I don’t think it’s much of an issue among the leadership in evangelical circles,” Michael Farris, an influential evangelical activist, says of Mormon candidates. “But I don’t know if that is always true at the grassroots level.”
Richard Land, who directs public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest evangelical denomination, says evangelicals could coalesce around Romney but that the conditions would have to be just right.
“If Southern Baptists have a choice between an evangelical candidate, a Catholic and a Mormon and all three appear to be equally conservative and equally likely to beat Barack Obama, they’ll vote for the evangelical,” says Land, who has informally advised Romney on how to deal with his faith on the campaign trail.
“If there’s no such evangelical [in the] race, they’ll vote for the Catholic,” he says, “But if there’s no other candidate who’s likely to beat Obama, they’ll vote for the Mormon.”
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, an evangelical, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Catholic, are running for the GOP nomination.
Beyond theological challenges, conservative activists like Land and Farris say Romney faces skepticism among religious conservatives because he once supported abortion rights and signed a healthcare law in Massachusetts that critics say represented a dramatic government overreach.
But those close to Romney argue that Huckabee’s decision not to enter the 2012 race creates an opportunity for Romney to pick up more evangelical support. Or, they say, it could wind up splitting evangelical voters among multiple primary candidates, making evangelicals a less potent force.
DeMoss, a Christian public relations executive who also helped Romney with evangelical outreach in 2008, says one of the victories from the last campaign was that no big-name evangelical came out against Romney over his Mormonism. This time, DeMoss is working to get some evangelical leaders to go a step further and publicly support Romney.
After Romney’s 2008 defeat, one nationally known evangelical leader privately told DeMoss that he’d voted for Romney in the primaries.
“I remember thinking, it would have been nice if somebody else knew that,” says DeMoss, who believes such revelations would have made more evangelicals comfortable supporting a Mormon candidate.
Huntsman’s entry into the presidential race could make Mormonism less of an issue if it has a mainstreaming effect. But the two candidates’ religious affiliations could play out quite differently.
Romney has long been active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), having occupied Mormon leadership positions like bishop (the rough equivalent of a lay pastor) and stake president (someone who oversees groups of Mormon congregations).
“I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it,” Romney said in a December 2007 speech in which he addressed his Mormonism. “My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.”
Huntsman, like Romney, spent two years abroad as a Mormon missionary but has kept some distance from the LDS church. As governor of Utah, he loosened liquor laws that had been inspired by Mormon orthodoxy and broke with his church in signing a law allowing civil unions for gay couples.
In a recent television interview, Huntsman affirmed his Mormon faith but added that Mormonism is “a very diverse and heterogeneous cross-section of people. ... I probably add to that diversity somewhat.”
A Huntsman adviser who often deals with the media declined to respond to requests for comment.
Matthew Bowman, an editor at a Mormon studies journal called Dialogue, says Huntsman hails from a slightly younger generation of Mormons who are less defensive about their Mormonism.
“Huntsman is a Mormon who thinks of his faith not as something that separates him from American culture or as something he has to defend or explain away, which is what Romney did,” says Bowman. “Romney is always hyperaware of his Mormonism.”
That means Huntsman may face fewer questions about his Mormonism should he run.
The LDS church, for its part, says its policy is to steer clear of electoral politics. Some church observers say the controversy the church generated by supporting California’s 2008 gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, exacerbated its political reticence.
At the same time, the church has capitalized on increased attention paid to Mormonism - provoked by everything from Romney’s 2008 campaign to the current hit Broadway musical, “Book of Mormon” - with a succession of public awareness campaigns.
The church website Mormon.org, for example, was recently revamped with an eye toward educating non-Mormons about the religion. The site features video profiles of Mormons from different walks of life.
“The message of these ads is that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are your friends and neighbors,” says Purdy, the church spokesman. “We are professionals and tradespeople, artists and teachers and everything in between.”
Put another way, the message is that Mormons are normal, everyday Americans.
With the Republican primary race finally starting in earnest, the nation is about get a major glimpse into whether GOP voters agree.
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.
The question is so mute! Why argue against a Mormon when we have an extremist muslim president now ? Makes no sense.
Not sure why anyone should give a hute, what you say.
I ask you for proving your statement. I would be grateful. I cannot imagine, Obama is a Muslim.
We never should have had a black president and should not have a Mormon. Mormons have perverted the bible and Christ.
Black and white people have the same rights according to Christ's will. Every American can become president of the US, not depending on his skin (colour).
The above Adelina is another fake.
Sorry Rainer but you are wrong. Pick up the bible and read it sometime. God wrote the bible and laws, not me.
Adelina, I suppose you have a faked or false edition of the Bible. Check it out. Do you belong to any cult?
Another fake Adelina above.
Re: the above posts. THAT is precisely what's the problem with fundamentalism, both right and left wing. No matter how extreme any one individual opinion seems to be, there's always someone who will come along who is even more extreme. they will then fight about who is "righter". There is no end to it. It's why a Theocracy, of ANY stripe, could never stand the test of time.
what a silly question. we have conservatives that think it's ok to invent excuses to wipe governments off the map we don't agree with. we have a liberal president that thinks it's ok to open the borders and let any drug dealer, murderer, or insane person to enter the u.s. with impunity, and states have no rights to protect themselves. how can another religious wacko be any different than the cast of clowns we already have?
you must be referring to Obamas invasion of Libya
I have no knowledge about the Mormons. Regarding a presidential contender, belonging to any cult, I would ask, whether the cult has a longing for absolute rule , despotism or is antidemocratic. Basícally all cults are inclined to bigotry. That is a danger.
If the US can have a first black president then it can certainly have a first mormon president
Lets be tolerant, people. stop the hate
You are born black not believing in false profits, that comes with ignorance created throughout life.
We never should have had a black president. The bible is clear on black people's roles and curse.
@The above Adelina is not the original Christian Adelina. A fake who must be a racist atheist.
Why not? America elected and reelected a moron President between 2000 and 2004
No, there are enough Mormons who think they are the bees knees and better than everyone else, all we need now is a Mormon president to boost their egos even more.
I know! If you have never lived around them you wouldn't understand this statement. They think they are the s*%t and above you if you aren't mormon.
Exactly how do Mormons think and act like "they are better than you"?
Why worry if we are ready for a Mormom president? Question should be: How do we get rid of this Islamic President?
Can you prove your statement???
It is interesting that once the birther movement lost steam the 'Obama is a Muslim' group seemed to gain steam.
Once I had a Muslim workmate. He meant ,Obama is a Jew. I would like to know, what he really is? What does he claim himself?
if you are asking about Obama, he has stated more than once that he is Christian and does attend church occasionally. He was a member of Rev. Wright's church for 20 years, I think. There is no real reason to think he is a Muslim, but as someone close to him once said (paraphrased), "the correct answer is that he is Christian; the better answer is, so what if he is Muslim?"
Thank you Nonimus for information. I have yet heard that he was member of a Free Church. Seemingly some people suppose, he had converted from his Free Church belief to another belief.
For your information (FYI), there are no state churches in the US, so if I understand your use of the term Free Church, I think all churches in the US are Free Churches.
Mormons = good honest people.
People who actively go out of their way to hate mormons = no one likes you, and you have no friends.
I guess they were being honest when they told me that dinosaur bones were put here by God to test our faith? I guess the dad of my highschool girfriend was a pretty good Mormon guy when he came to MY house and threatened to beat me and my father becuase his daughter was smoking cigarettes like it was our fault. People are all the same, except some are stupid enough to believe in a crook/scam artists that created a false religion.
"I guess they were being honest when they told me that dinosaur bones were put here by God to test our faith?"
If they actually believed it, then yes, they were being honest with you. Whats your point? They believe in weird things – who cares? It should hold no weight in an election.
"I guess the dad of my highschool girfriend was a pretty good Mormon guy when he came to MY house and threatened to beat me and my father becuase his daughter was smoking cigarettes like it was our fault."
Your high school girlfriends dad sounds like a psycho, and doesn't speak for an entire religion.. Time to become an adult and move on.
I don't really care what the religion someone is as long as they lead and govern the people and they can do the job and get it done.
You should care and it should be Christian. Mormons are not Christians. They have perverted Christ and they will go to hell.
Per-sonally, speaking in as an Am-erican who firmly believes in the freedom of rel-igion, I do not care what re-ligion a politician is. What I care about is whether or not he/she can do the job to which I am being asked to elect them and whether or not I believe that they will represent the will of the people that elect them.
I can not figure out why the rest of my comment is being forced into moderation. It's frustrating.
Suffice it to say, however, that since I am also a person with opinion, I'm likely to vote for the person who shares my opinions the most, as I feel they will best represent me. Unfortunately, that is where religion comes in, as my opinions are sure to differ from those of an evangelical or Mormon or Muslim.
As a transplant to the South and knowing how the people think here, if they have any say it will be a definite NO.
I oppose Mitt Romney because he is a fraud, suckup, tool, and just a greasy canidate in general. There are more then enough reasons to oppose Romney without getting into religion or even his policies.
Doesn't matter what promises he makes, he's 5x the phony Obama is.
Ron Paul 2012- for honest leadership.
Mormons believe in their faith as it is actually true.They beliefs represent as radical shift from traditional Christian religions. The Jesus they believe in, is not the same Jesus that we believe in. They believe in men becomings gods after they die and ruling over their own planet. It is a bizarre strange religion that if logically looked at cannot possibly be true, yet they still believe, even with an element of faith.
Faith is more then being logical. Some things may not make sense or even think it is possible. Moses parting the Red Sea, logically that does not seem real.. but it happened.
Of course it's logical, if you have faith that its underlying doctrines are true.
There is no Christian sect whose beliefs are "logical." Christian faith requires you to believe that a carpenter from Palestine two thousand years ago can give you forgiveness for the morally wrong actions you are committing today, through his execution at the hands of the Roman Empire. You also believe that he rose from the dead and rose into the sky while promising to return one day. None of that is logical, unless you believe that this carpenter was God's son. And since there is no physical proof of that, it requires you faith, which mean you have strayed outside the boundaries of "logic" and are in the realm of religious belief. There is nothing in the Mormon faith that is any less logical or any more "bizarre" than any other mainstream christian church beliefs. Youve just had more time to accept Christianity's beliefs as "normal" religious belief.
Instead of being close minded, how about allowing all people to believe as they want, and electing people based on their skills and merits? That is far more compatible with the ideals of American democracy.
But they believe that the Jews sailed across the ocean and established an elaborate civilization in North America and the descendants of those Jews are the Native Americans and by the way God put a curse on their skin. If this is not true, then the whole Mormon religion is bogus. You either have to believe the book of Mormon is true or not and if it is proven it is not true, then their religion cannot be a true religion. I know you can apply this logic to the Old and New Testament, but the Book of Mormon is on a whole different level of proof.
But do you believe that Native Americans came from the middle east via boats in the last 2500 years?
"I know you can apply this logic to the Old and New Testament, but the Book of Mormon is on a whole different level of proof."
So are you saying that Christianity, based on the OT and NT, is illogical, but Mormonism is even more illogical?
Do you believe that the Earth was created within the last 10,000 years?
So the majority of what this guy is saying is actually true...we do believe all that stuff. read about it for yourself: mormon.org
@Doug Allen, I think the general consensus among LDS believers is that some middle easterners came over from boats to *join* existing native American peoples here and that they were mostly concentrated in a small area in Central America. I think people often distort that belief to make it sound like Mormons believe that the entire continent was populated by middle easterners. This belief is not just a Mormon belief. There have been many experiments to determine how the Polynesian islands were populated and boats is the primary theory.
@Doug Allen, You are correct that the Book of Mormon is the crux of the Mormon religion. If the book is true then the religion is true, if it's not true then the religion isn't either. You can try to go about trying prove or disprove it through archaeology but that's a pretty tough thing to do, for the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The best way to go about it is to read the book and prayerfully consider it. Mormons hold that if it is true then God will make it known to the sincere reader.
Anything is better than a deceptive muslim that has destroyed our nation.
All people who believe in god are deceptive?
It has been curious to me to watch from the outside how Mormonism has been open game for media and people of other faiths since its inception. The questions posed in this article are worth talking about but we already know the answers to this question. Kennedy settled the question a long time ago. The people of Massachusetts locally answered this question. Mitt may be the only person in the Republican Party with the character and charisma to take on Obama.
If you know the early history of the Mormon church you know it was a troubled one. Other than the African Americans and American Indians there was probably know other group that was more persecuted than the Mormons. Mobs drove them out of their cities, killed their leaders and the U.S. government turned a blind eye. Freedom of religion had a black eye during the early 1800s. None the less these people stuck to their faith and didn’t turn on their country. If you have ever known more than a few Mormons than you know, on average, they are some of the better citizens in our communities.
Agree, it seems that you can not make fun of gays or race, but the Mormons are free game??
The term you both are looking for is "fair game" not open game nor free game.
One possible alternative is "open season on..."
You also might want to look into how the Irish, Catholic, German, Chinese, Ja.panese, and Italians were treated when they first immigrated to the US.
(you know it is hard to spell Ja.panese without the word Ja.p)
@ Umm: you are correct that those groups received some pretty harsh treatment...however they weren't driven out of the country itself. When the Mormons were driven out to Utah it was still Mexico (there was an extermination order to drive out Mormons or kill them in MO for crying out loud!)
They are also the only group listed that attempted "war" (used loosely) against the government, '1838 Mormon War' and the 'Utah War'. But, if I understand correctly, you are correct that they are the only group to ever have an "extermination" (used loosely) order placed on them (officially "Missouri Executive Order 44"). To be fair though, as I understand it, the Mormons had a standing armed militia and were supposedly not following the laws of the state. Although, on the other side, this may have been due to the prior persecution of Mormons by non-Mormon neighbors.
So, they were driven out of Missouri, true. I'm not sure they were driven out of the country, but they did leave it. And then quickly peti.tioned the US for Territory status.
The Mormons are unique, no question. They have been both highly persecuted and, one might argue, highly seditious.
Too many freaks of nature in America.
Yep, we call them the Offensive line of Pro Football teams 🙂
I don't care about his religion, I care whether he would make a competent executive. I like Romney because he is good at working with people on both sides of the political spectrum. We've had 4 years of hard left, and 8 years of hard right. The country is in terrible shape, and is so polarized nothing constructive can get done. Romney has shown he can can work with both sides, he's a centrist who has shown to be an effective problem solver, he pulled Massachusetts out of a huge financial crisis while giving them the health plan most people in Mass wanted. Mitt looks like a decent candidate... but for some reason he gets run down by people who think Palin, Huckabee, Paul and Trump would make great candidates.
Why not! We already have a Muslim
obama has said time and time again that he wants to work with republicans. they refuse and congress refuses to work together, both dems and republicans....whether or not romney is more centered doesn't make a difference...what makes a difference is whether or not congress is willing to work together.
Nope, sorry. Some religions/cults/etc. are just too wacky to support. At some point, a person's beliefs says something about their ability to think logically and rationally. I wouldn't vote for a Scientologist who believes in Xenu the alien overlord, I wouldn't vote for any of the Family Radio "rapture is coming" folk, and I certainly won't vote for someone who believes a giant salamader appeared before a con artist in the woods and presented him with inscribed golden plates with the new word of god.
@Lemme Think; I guess you know nothing about the LDS faith. If you know nothing about a faith do not comment on it.
I'm pretty sure that isn't Mormon or Romney belief. But hey, if you want to try wacky, how bout those folks who believe that the execution of a guy in the middle east a couple of millenia ago can make up for the bad things they did. Or maybe the people in Asia who think that the best way to live your life is to stop caring about anything. Or maybe the people who believe that this world and the people in it are nothing more than a bunch of chemical reactions that developed mostly at random.
I have to agree with @??? on this one. The giant salamander myth is something invented by people who want to stop the LDS faith at all costs. There is no giant salamander anywhere in the teachings of the LDS faith and there never has been. It's easy to vilify other people's beliefs. The beliefs of others always seem a little strange. The truth is, we really shouldn't vote for or against someone based on their personal spiritual beliefs.
yeah, the salamander was just a bystander. an angel gave him the gold plates and he translated them from ancient egyptian by staring at stones he put in a hat. rofl
Great post American.
@joe, Actually, if you want to be precise, the story really goes like this. Joseph Smith wanted to know what Church to join so he prayed about it. Jesus Christ and God the Father appeared to him and told him not to join any of the existing churches and called him to be a prophet. Later an angle told him where to find the golden plates. He translated them with the assistance of the Urim and Thumim and later the seer stone over the course of about 75 total days. You can read about Joseph Smith's experiences on their website here: http://mormon.org/joseph-smith/ . You can also read about the translation experiences here: http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/book_of_mormon/translation.html .
Giant salamander or talking snake, what's the difference?
Provide the golden plates, the stones, or concrete evidence of this "angle"... or it didn't happen. Joseph Smith made it all up.... just like Moses, Paul of Tarsus, Mohammad and L. Ron Hubbard did.
The evidence is the book. That's the evidence. If you haven't read it then I suggest you take a look and ask yourself if a young man with no schooling could have written it. (Sorry about the angle/angel misspelling.)
When we say 'the buck stops here'...it has a meaning.
While a soldier may actually kill or defeat the enemy, the orders,policies, and the direction the country takes do come from the president.
In the bin Laden case, this President does get the credit. Without the express sanction, the SEALs cannot take that action. If the SEALs had failed, would you have blamed Obama?
Whom do you blame or credit for the wars/military action, say in Iraq? George Bush?
Well, according to your theory, you cannot blame or credit any President for anything – because they were NOT there PHYSICALLY...
"“I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it,” Romney said in a December 2007 speech in which he addressed his Mormonism. “My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.”"
I'm a former member of the LDS church and now know the Truth and am an evangelical Christian...the goings-on in the LDS church are cult-like and Mr. Romney's quote from 07 confirms my stand that I will not vote for Him.
Cult like?? Really?? It probably is because you wanted a differnet life style and you have to blame someone or something for not letting you have that life style.
I've seen the workings of the Mormon church and I can tell you that the "goings-on" are not cult like. The Mormons are a peaceful, thoughtful, educated, hard-working people. They serve others and give generously to charity. If you disagree with some of the doctrines, that's your prerogative, of course. But I would recommend against labeling a religion a cult.
The Mormon religion is quite different than any other christian religion. The word cult pejoratively refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. Some could say believers of christ is a cult. We just accept the older cults that have been around longer.
Can any of the "believers" answer my question? At what point does a religion or religious beliefs become or is accepted as mythology?
Anything other than Christianity is a cult. That simple.
Above Adelina is a fake. Christianity has a lot of cult groups within.
Thank you again Friend. There are a lot of fake Adleinas here.
Yeah, that's a tough one. If you look it up on Websters Dictionary ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cult ) the definitions there seem to apply to just about any religion, Christian or not. I think @dnjsmom88 and others who accuse people of being members of cults are probably imagining some kind of devil worship and an aspect of force or loss of agency. This definition does not fit the LDS faith at all. They believe in freedom, free agency, education, empowering women, and thinking for oneself. Furthermore, Mormons do not worship the devil in any way. Their faith is centered around Christ and his teachings. It’s possible that they are confused with other groups, perhaps the RLDS.