Here comes Iowa

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After avoiding “white evangelicals” like yesterday’s coffee, the political reporting class has dusted off its old Rolodexes and discovered that when it comes to Iowa, it’s all about, well, white evangelicals. As in, where’s the Huckabee vote going? The big deal event of the summer is the Ames straw poll August 13, which WaPo’s Chris Cilizza has pronounced to be Michele Bachmann’s to lose. At the moment, that seems an easy call, since this exercise in organizational muscle has turned into a contest to see who will serve as Evangelical Challenger to The Mormon. Mitt Romney, the national frontrunner who won Ames easily four years ago (but then lost the GOP Caucus to Huckabee), has decided to sit this one out, as has his co-religionist John Huntsman. Bachmann’s got the organizational leg up, plus by far the most evangelical pizzazz–though she should think twice before signing every family values pledge that comes down the pike.

Meanwhile, and not coincidentally, anti-Mormonism is on the march again. Once upon a time, when the likes of Al Smith and Jack Kennedy ran for president, the slimier forms of anti-Catholicism only circulated underground. Now their anti-Mormon equivalents are published by CNN. And where once serious religious leaders and sober editorial pages turned out to condemn the stuff, in the present media free-for-all, it’s given a pass–and even indulged in. Four years ago, Romney may have fallen short of Kennedyesque performance, but he deserved far more in the way of principled condemnation of bigotry than he got. What anti-Mormon activist Tricia Ericson has to say is not merely “provocative” and “inflammatory,” it’s appallingly un-American:

Yes, it is my opinion that an indoctrinated Mormon should never be
elected as President of the United States of America. Indoctrinated
temple Mormons (as Romney is) have experienced years of brainwashing and
indoctrination and also have made covenants and oaths that they plainly
cannot disobey…

Long story short, it would be near to impossible for an entrenched
Mormon to place his allegiance to the United States of America over the
Mormon Church.  After Mitt’s death oaths to the church, it is my belief
that he lied about this to the American people and will continue to do

It is past time for editorial pages and columnists and religious leaders to take such views seriously and condemn them in no uncertain terms. And that goes especially for those religious leaders whose flocks are most susceptible. That means you, Land, Warren, Leith, Jakes, Robertson, etc. etc. etc.

Update: And Bachmann is now out in front of the rest of the field, including Romney, in the Hawkeye State.