They’re Heeeere . . .

The push pollers, anti-Mormons, and political opportunists, that is.

Politico’s crack ’08 blogger Jonathan Martin has the story. Apparently, a Utah-based market research company has been hired to call voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and ask question after question about each respondent’s opinions regarding Mormonism, its status as a “cult,” its adherence to the Book of Mormon, and the eligibility of a Mormon to hold political office. This would seem to be targeted at a specific Mormon candidate, if you can think of one that holds that profile.

While it’s an awful thing to see, pretty much everyone (including me) predicted this. And it’s coming at exactly the time you would expect it to. So far we have strong denials from the McCain and Giuliani camps. However, given the current legal climate of campaigning, it could be virtually anyone paying for these calls behind a 527 group. Someone see if there have been any papers filed to set up “Anti-Mormons for Truth.”

And by the way, following up on the new gloves-are-off mode we’re entering, here’s another nice piece of scurrilous anti-Mormonism. I had planned to respond to this today, but other duties have called. Hopefully we can have a real response up soon.

Finally, if you haven’t seen it already, this New York Times piece on Romney’s mission is decent. While the continuing, obsessive focus on Romney’s religious experience is unfortunate, at least the focus is on Romney’s religious experience– rather than on the abstract theological beliefs putatively held by his religion. Once you accept the topic of the piece, it’s a pretty fair treatment that continues the inevitable process of humanizing this candidate as the country pays more attention to him.

Giuliani, McCain: Morally Repugnant. Romney: Worse.

Bill Berkowitz at Media Transparency provides an interesting summary of the race so far, from the perspective of the Religious Right base. While he gets some of his facts right, Berkowitz also throws a lot of gas on the fire of intolerance against Romney, pretending that it’s water. Here’s the sub-head:

While Giuliani and McCain register ‘morally repugnant’ on the religious right’s traditional values-meter, Romney has a bigger problem: many conservative Christian evangelical leaders don’t believe his religion measures up.

And here’s the segue within the story to Romney’s ‘problem’:

While Giuliani and McCain are viewed with enormous suspicion and distaste by many on the Christian right, Romney has a much larger problem, one that has little to do with his serial flip-flopping on social issues. It is Romney’s Mormonism that clearly makes many conservative Christian evangelicals uneasy.

So, as this author tells it, the conservative Christian base of the Republican party finds McCain and Giuliani morally “repugnant,” but feel even less regard for Mitt Romney because of his religion? (more…)

McCain Camp Joins in the Anti-Mormon Fun

According to this Boston Globe story, a County Campaign Chairman for McCain in Iowa recently made a speech at a meeting in the county courthouse about Mitt Romney’s religion.  And it wasn’t about tolerance.  According to several witnesses, Chad Workman discussed allegations that the LDS Church helps fund Hamas*,  and is similar to the Taliban in the way it treats women.  According to Workman, the major flaw in Romney’s candidacy is that he is unqualified, incompetent, moderate, irreligious, lacking in virtue, wrong on the issues a Mormon.  Ah yes, that most damning of political liabilities.

In case you’re not keeping score, that makes three direct assaults on Mormonism by three mainstream campaigns in the last month alone.  The Globe story adequately summarizes the first two- in which staffers for the Giuliani and Brownback campaigns forwarded emails meant to cast Mormonism in an unflattering light.  

It is a happy (though unsurprising) fact that the principal of each of the above campaigns has promptly apologized for these attacks, and promised course corrections.  And yet, one wonders if the message is getting through.  Does every single campaign feel it has one freebie before it has to get tough on religious bigotry?  If McCain truly cared about keeping his campaign free of faith-based mud-slinging, couldn’t he have sent the message to his troops after he saw not one but two other campaigns getting dirty?  The only positive to come from this is that from this point on, any campaign that crosses this line should be very much held accountable for the bigotry, because each has now had ample opportunity to communicate its standards to its operatives.  And if the candidates are to be taken at their word about such behavior, any other staffers pulling this kind of attack should be fired.

Coming into this primary cycle, a few things were predictable.  It has always been likely that some Christian groups would publicize unfavorable information to discredit the Mormon faith.  It was also a good bet that a campaign or two might engage in some below the belt whisper campaigns, but mostly through surrogates or behind a veil of anonymity.  What is truly surprising is that here in June, three high profile campaigns have already taken off the gloves on Romney’s religion, and done it completely out in the open. 

The only thing that can stop the snowball now is a genuine commitment from the candidates to stop the attacks now, or a clear message from voters or the press that they are unacceptable.  At this stage, I am not confident that either will come to pass.

*I have never heard this particular accusation before.  If you have any information on the accusation that the LDS Church helps to fund Hamas, please forward it to me.  And by the way, I can tell you already, it’s complete nonsense.

Tancredo Exposes Romney’s Competence

I loved this clip. It’s the kind of negativity this campaign needs more of.

Hat tip: J. Max