Not just competent Mormons, either. Read the full transcript and you’ll see that he extends this principle to all non-Christian candidates, including a hypothetical involving Eric Cantor as the first Jewish president. At one point, before he gets cut off by the interviewer, he makes an approving mention of “Article Six,” which I take it is a reference to the clause in the Constitution banning religious tests for office. He seems to be saying that he doesn’t believe in barring anyone from running because of their faith, merely in … voters holding their faith against them in the booth. But if every American Christian agreed with that, it would operate as de facto nullification of the religious-tests clause. As long as there was a “competent” Christian in the race, any competent non-Christian opponent would be doomed to defeat even if he was more competent on the merits. There’d be no point for us heathens in running.
Anyway, here’s another day spent on the trail where Perry’s not talking about jobs because suddenly he’s too busy handling the crisis du jour, which in this case means reassuring people that he doesn’t agree that Mormonism is a cult. Jeffress, the pastor, went on to say that he assumes Perry doesn’t share his views, and there were reports after today’s event that it was the organizers, not Perry’s team, who chose Jeffress to introduce Perry. Which is true, but Politico finds that the whole truth is slightly more nuanced:
Rick Perry’s campaign signed off on the choice of Texas pastor Robert Jeffress to introduce the governor at the Values Voter Summit, Family Research Council head Tony Perkins told POLITICO.
Perkins, whose group leads the annual social conservative gathering, said that FRC suggested Jeffress to the Perry campaign because he was a supporter of the Republican presidential candidate.
“He was recommended to us because Dr. Jeffress is a supporter,” Perkins said. “We sent it to the campaign, they checked off on it. But it wasn’t somebody that they had sent to us.”…
Perry spokesman Mark Miner confirmed that the campaign “said ok” to the Jeffress introduction, but reiterated that he’d been “recommended” by others.
If it’s any cold comfort to Mitt, there are bigger liabilities one can have as a candidate than Mormonism — athough that may depend in part on one’s party. Do note the following Gallup data from June:
Exit quotation: “I’m not saying that Romney is not a good person, but that he will not be saved.”