Sadder but Wiser

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DeMoss.jpgIn an interview with John Green last week, former Romney campaign adviser Mark DeMoss (and one time chief of staff to Jerry Falwell) said pretty much straight out that it was Mike Huckabee who sunk the Romney campaign:

Would I like the president to share my faith? Sure. Would I like Mitt Romney’s credentials and intellect and character and competence and experience combined with an evangelical Southern Baptist faith? I’d love it. But I didn’t have it, so I liked everything else. But there’re still a lot of folks saying in this country, I vote on this. I heard repeatedly from people who said, how can you support a Mormon when we have one of our own running for president? We should support one of our own, a fellow Southern Baptist.
I think there are some other things that ought to be part of a president, like competence and experience and so on. These are interesting times.

DeMoss is very annoyed at Huckabee for running an ad in South Carolina (but not elsewhere) advertising himself as “a Christian leader.” His takeaway from the campaign?

I’d like to really change the – one of my missions, I think, is to change the debate from religion to values. Values should play a huge role in a campaign. Religion, I think, should play a secondary role.
And that, to some of my friends and colleagues, is probably a little heretical. But I really believe it. After all, we really don’t know as voters a very great deal about most or any of these candidates’ or past presidents’ personal faith anyway. We know what they tell us. But we don’t know. And a lot of times, particularly religious conservatives have put great stock in a candidate who they thought was a fellow evangelical only to find out, gee, maybe they weren’t, were disappointed. Well, if your interest had been in common values rather than common theology, you might have been less disappointed.

This is not exactly a new line from DeMoss. But ever since Lee Atwater took George H.W. Bush around to testify to his born-again-ness to evangelical pastors all over the South (Falwell foremost among them), GOP operatives have encouraged evangelicals to focus on the personal faith of presidential candidates, and to set a high value on having one of their own. One day I’d like to hear one of these operatives ‘fess up to how this golem was created.

  • Ted Olsen

    The identity politics card is way, way older than the Bush 1 campaign.
    I still say, however, that the issue is affiliation, not identity. Think evangelicals are more likely to vote for a non-evangelical Ronald Reagan type who says “You can’t endorse me, but I endorse you,” or a Randall Balmer type who describes himself as an evangelical but has made a career out of showing how much he dislikes them?

  • Mark Silk

    Fair enough, Ted, but I think we’re talking about more than normal identity politics here. Think about taking a John Kerry or a Joe Biden around to bishops for him to kiss the ring and make a profession of faith. Sure, evangelicals didn’t flock to Bill Clinton or Al Gore just because they were Southern Baptists. But a fair number of conservative white evangelicals have, I believe, come to believe that it’s really desirable to have, as president, someone who accepts Jesus as his personal lord and savior. And the GOP has actively worked to encourage that belief.