By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors
(CNN)–For the next four days, the eyes of the political world will be on Tampa, Florida, the site of the Republican National Convention (which will now get started Tuesday, after Tropical Storm Isaac cancelled Monday's events).
Though politics will be the name of the game, it's a safe bet that religion will also play a major role. The convention opens with a prayer from a Hispanic evangelical leader and closes with a benediction from a Catholic cleric who's sometimes called "America's pope."
In between, balloons will drop on the first Mormon to be nominated by a major political party to be president of the United States. Here are eight ways faith will matter this week. What did we leave out? Let us know in comments and we'll expand our list as warranted.
1. The ghost of Todd Akin
Most people couldn't pick him out of lineup and he won't be attending the convention this week. But the Missouri Senate candidate who claimed that women could prevent conception in cases of "legitimate rape" opened a rift in the Republican Party, with GOP chieftains pressuring him to drop out while some powerful conservative Christian activists rally to his defense. Those activists are using the Akin episode to allege that the Republican Party wants quash their socially conservative agenda even as it happily accepts their votes. If the infighting continues into this week, there could be a battle for GOP's soul at a moment when the GOP wants to project unity.
2. The M word
Even now that he's talking more about his religious faith, Mitt Romney almost never refers specifically to Mormonism or to his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And yet Romney has held a series leadership positions in his church. Will the Republican Party continue to studiously avoid one of its presidential candidate's defining characteristics? Or will some convention speaker make a case for why Romney's Mormonism is an asset? Will Romney himself mention his religion as he accepts his party's nomination?
3. Ladies night (or week)?
For months, the GOP has been on the defensive, as Democrats say Republicans are waging a "war on women," a theme the Dems began sounding when the American bishops blasted the White House for its contraception mandate for insurance companies earlier this year. This week, Republicans face a delicate balancing act in trying to assuage the concerns of moderate women voters while also satisfying its religiously conservative base. (See ghost of Todd Akin, above). A big part of that mission falls to Ann Romney, the Republican nominee's wife, and to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, both of whom have choice speaking slots.
4. The possibility of a culture war speech
"There is a religious war going on in this country," former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan told the 1992 Republican convention in a primetime address. "It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America." There are still debates over whether the speech, which provoked a media frenzy, helped or hurt President George H.W. Bush, who would go on to lose to Bill Clinton. But the Republican Party is keen on avoiding such moments as it tries to win over independents this fall. There's some nervousness about what Rick Santorum will say in his convention address.
5. Religious liberty
Many conservatives are livid over the Obama administration's requirement that health insurers offer free contraceptive coverage, even for employees of Catholic institutions. Plus, talking up religious liberty is likely less of a turnoff for moderate voters than is talk about bans on abortion and gay marriage, traditionally the top concerns of religious conservatives. Catholics and evangelicals, two key voting blocs, have been buzzing about religious liberty for months, with mega-pastor Rick Warren recently canceling plans for a presidential forum with Obama and Romney and announcing plans for one on religious liberty instead.
When it comes to foreign policy, look for convention speakers to try outdo one another in pledging support for the Jewish State - and in railing against Obama for what they'll allege are his administration's shabby treatment of a key American ally. Israel is especially important to the GOP's evangelical base, some of whom see a biblical bond with the Jewish people and some who believe Israel must be in Jewish control before the Second Coming can happen. Mitt Romney included Israel as one of his marquee stops on his recent foreign trip, including a photo-op at Jerusalem's Western Wall.
7. Hurricane theology
Will some televangelist claim that Tropical Storm Isaac, which is headed toward the Gulf Coast, is God's way of punishing the GOP for insufficient piety? It wouldn't be the first time a prominent preacher blamed severe weather on American insubordinance.
8. "America's pope"
The convention's closing prayer will be delivered by Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who leads the American Catholic bishops and is sometimes referred to as America's pope. It's a good indication of just how important the Catholic vote is thought to be this year, with Catholics accounting for 1 in 4 Americans and considered to be the quintessential swing bloc. Whoever wins these voters will likely win the White House.
This isn't new. Billy Graham travelled with Nixon, but as a Catholic I am extremely worried about these priests that are collaborating with the Republican party. I find it very confusing and it does not go well with the message of charity and good works. When I saw Romney bumper stickers on cars at my new church in Ohio, I decided to look for a new church.
I find it HILARIOUS that I've been reading and hearing on the news ALL week how the STRIP CLUBS are gearing up for the convention. and how the GOP is going to "make it rain" during the convention. NOW they have the HUGE cojones to throw their "religion" in my face. A classy bunch of distinguished gentlemen to be sure.
...shall we open the convention with a prayer?
Let us pray that our wives do not find out about the sins that we are about to happily commit.
What a bunch of hippocrates.
On request, Prince Harry, has forwarded a copy of the rule for str*ip billiards.
My fellow Americans, I spend a lot of time in prayer. The good Lord would want me to ravish this young lady. Yes I know I've been married to the same wonderful woman for (fill in the number) years, but even Jimmy Swaggest liked his hoes.
Yeah, still funny how every working girl for 2500 miles is now in Tampa. "hold my Bible, while I get my cash out honey. Oh the good Lord has blessed your body!"
You completely forgot to mention the Rabbi who is speaking!
I am one catholic that's not voting for Romney.
OBAMA WILL WIN THE CATHOLIC VOTE. Having a cardinal speak at the convention will not help the GOP. Ryan may be catholic, but we are talking about THE AMERICAN catholic vote. Bye bye GOP
Is a Cardinal "speaking" or just saying a prayer? It's my understanding there will be prayers given by those of many different faiths. It does make a difference.
This is just a glorified pep rally with some cult activities thrown in. When Christianity becomes about loving they neighbor again, please let me know.
Long live separation of church and state!!!!
As the GOP'ers did in the Sea of Galilee on a recent Israel junket, will the hurricane disrupt the drunken, religious themed skinny dipping in Tampa Bay? Here's hoping the sharks are hungry that evening.
The GOP "Gone With The Wind"
Dear Republicans. Matthew 6:5.
The Lord will not think kindly of you for this. Do ANY of my fellow "Christians" still READ THE WORD OF GOD?
You are hypocrites and your rewards on this Earth will be in vain. G*d knows your faith is false!
hey christian nutbag..........did you know god was created by man? your quotes from a black leatherbound comic book mean nothing
you are so right.. I get sdo sick and tired of theses religous zellots shouting hate.. Jesus is a about love for all people, acceptance and leading by example, not exclusion..
Uh well aren't Muslim leaders going to the DNC convention?
In fact Jumah prayers will be at the Charlotte convention. Quite a bit, looking at the Jumah Brochure, Islamic affairs happening at the DNC Charlotte Convention.
Tis funny of you CNN for not reporting that Islamic get together at the DNC convention.
get religion out of politics and END all tax exemptions for religion. enough is enough this is not 2000 years ago.
Agreed and well said.
Politics and Religion are in direct conflict with each other. These so called "Men Of God" are all liers, cheats, deceivers, self proclaimed and most of all HYPOCRITES. So say your prayers, yada, yada. In truth they mean nothing. Put your religion where the sun don't shine and fix this damn country.
There has been and there may come again the day when you are glad religion is in opposition to government.
Mitt Romney introduced his VP running mate Paul Ryan before the backdrop of an old Navy ship. Now, the GOT National Convention set to kick off this week has been postponed due to rising watesr on the high seas!!! See the correlation here? Ship on te high seas? After all, that is exactly how jobs are shipped over SEAS!!! Don't think God is trying to tell the voters something? Haha!
Please bless the United States. Also please wipe out the GOP convention with your wrath in the form of a hurricane.
Pay unto Caesar what is Caesars and pay unto God what is Gods, The first true statement of separation of Church and State.
Why does CNN keep reporting this stuff?
Do you not have any other news stories with more substance than mythology?
The Germans used to have on their belt buckles: "Gott Mit Uns". Romney's new slogan! Coincidence? Noooooooooooo!
Jesus Palomino, a Nazi. I knew it, you're all in cahoots. Well let me tell you something, Mr. Heinie Kraut, I fought your kind in the great war, and we kicked the living @hit out of you!
It is funny but many democrats are religious. But those democrats interpret what is right and wrong differently. Although religion plays an important part of what we think is right or wrong it is still the issues that matter. The ISSUES matter.
Actually what CNN won't report is the Islamic prayers and Jumah events at the DNC convention.