President Obama's purported 'weird'-Mormon strategy against Mitt Romney will backfire, pundits say

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 10 2011 12:02 p.m. MDT

In reaction to yesterday's Politico article claiming that President Obama's re-election campaign will cast Mitt Romney as "weird," writers like the Atlantic Wire's Elspeth Reeve wrote stories with headlines like "Calling Romney 'Weird' Sounds Like Code for 'Mormon.'"

Reeve's roundup of reaction to Politico's initial story included The Raw Story's Megan Carpentier, who had tweeted that "efforts by Obama to portray Romney as "weird" are dog-whistles to anti-Mormon sentiment."

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat published a piece titled, "Mormonism and Mitt Romney's 'Weirdness,'" arguing that while indeed Romney's Mormonism might be considered "weird" by some voters in the general election — focusing on it will be a poor strategy.

"The crucial thing to understand here is that Romney's Latter Day Saint affiliation isn't just a potential liability among evangelical voters in Republican primaries," wrote Douthat. "It's a potential general election liability as well."

He cited Gallup poll results which show that the number of persons who said they would not vote for a Mormon is lower when just surveying Republicans (18 percent) but increases among Democrats (27 percent) and independents (19 percent).

Douthat points out that if Obama decides to focus on casting Mormonism as "weird" and appealing to people "who know Mormonism primarily through pop culture … and who have a vague sense of the L.D.S. church as little bit cultish, a little bit outside-the-mainstream, and a little bit, well, weird ...(The Obama camp) will just make the Democrats look out of touch" during a campaign that will likely be focused on the economy and jobs.

Mediaite's Tommy Christopher agreed.

"Two wrongs don't make a right," Christopher wrote in a post yesterday. "And if, as the campaign wears on, the attacks on Romney's religion come into focus, that'll hurt Obama's campaign."

Some have pointed out that when Mitt Romney ran against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts for the Senate, Kennedy tried casting Romney's Mormonism in a poor light and, according to salon.com's Steve Kornacki, it "backfired."

Quinnipiac poll numbers do show that 31 percent of Republican voters, 38 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents have an unfavorable view of Mormonism.

"But, while (this data) leaves Romney's faith a tempting target for political strategists," wrote The Raw Story's Megan Carpentier in a piece Tuesday, "the question is whether voters who elected a president who once promised to bring a new type of politics to Washington will accept a campaign as personal as the one outlined to Politico — let alone one that winks at religious intolerance as a way to win the race."

EMAIL: hboyd@desnews.com

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