In 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.