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The Republican religious war

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Smart v. Stupid

The Republican religious war

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Make no mistake – if Mitt Romney were a Baptist, this thing would be over. But Citizen’s United unleashed a ton of Mormon money and Evangelicals are running scared.

What’s playing out in the GOP today isn’t a battle between moderates and conservatives – the party no longer has any moderates. In fact, the word “moderate” has become a pejorative. No, the current battle is between collection-plate Christians and the insular financial powerhouse that is Mormonism. They are fighting over which religion will call the shots in the R-Party going forward.

Within all the Sturm und Drang about the Iowa caucuses, an underreported story is that Rick Perry dropped out, and then got back in. Those who live in fantasyland will parse his words and say he never literally said he was dropping out. But he clearly spoke the code words candidates speak in order to avoid saying they lost.

My guess is that James Dobson was on the phone with Perry within minutes of his televised withdrawal, glamoring him about being part of God’s plan and offering to put him back in the game.

A Saturday meeting in Texas is the likely result of this. Well-known collection-plate evangelicals Don Wildmon (former chair of the American Family Association), Gary Bauer (a famous evangelical lobbyist), and Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family) quickly called the meeting. They, with others, are the same group that had a secret meeting with Perry in August. Wildmon and Dobson were both speakers at Perry’s prayer rally. Both have endorsed him in the past, though Wildmon has been a Gingrich supporter lately.

No word if Pastor Bill Keller will be in attendance. He’s the one who said a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan. But you can bet Perry-supporter Pastor Robert “but he is not a Chris-ti-an” Jeffress will be in attendance. Other prominent collection-platers Tony Perkins and John Hagee have also supported Perry and are sure to be invited, as well.

The meeting is important. So important that Rick Santorum surrogate Ron Carey was on cable news Thursday morning trying to co-opt the agenda for Santorum. He told Chuck Todd:

“There is a bunch of faith-based conservative leaders who are getting together to talk about can they coalesce as leaders of the conservative movement to get behind Santorum.”

Santorum can only wish. Most of these kingmakers endorsed McCain in the last election. So they’d be natural Romney endorsers except for his religion. But within the group, Rick Perry seems to have the mojo. He is vain enough to glamor, faithful enough to scare, and dumb enough to manipulate. Think George W.

Why not Santorum? Even Christian zealots know that Santorum has no chance to beat President Obama. For starters, he is on video advocating (not just explaining) his opposition to birth control.

“It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” Santorum says. Never mind that the vast majority of married (and Christian) couples practice birth control. They also fornicate for fun, which would probably make Santorum’s head explode.

A few fringe Protestant groups oppose birth control and certainly the Roman Catholic Church teaches against it. But I can’t think of a single Catholic I know (including family and more than a few priests) who doesn’t believe in birth control. And I don’t know a single Catholic woman who would vote to outlaw birth control simply to avoid a trip to confession. Maybe the Duggars. …

Being wrong on one issue isn’t a campaign killer, but being so wrong on an issue like birth control – one of the single most important issues of women – is a sign of sheer stupidity. Rank stupidity is a deal breaker.

Santorum can only run from his opposition to sex birth control. If he runs on it – or can’t hide from it – he has no chance of being elected. The Dobsons of the world are practical politicians. Coalescing behind Santorum would be an act of utter desperation.

Rick Perry, on the other hand, offers all the malleability of Santorum without all the baggage. He’s a good Christian who’s dumb enough to follow instructions and vain enough to think they were his ideas. Sometime between dropping out Tuesday night and pretending he never did Wednesday morning, Perry seems to have gotten the word to wait until at least this weekend to plot his future. Expect the emergency Christian summit to anoint him as the true candidate of God.

Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”

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