After the New York Times reported Saturday that Mitt Romney regained his status as the perceived frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain both had the chance Sunday on CNN to weigh in on the "Mormonism is a cult" rhetoric that Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress voiced Friday at the Values Voter Summit.
And repeatedly, Bachmann and Cain both refused to say whether they view fellow Romney as a Christian or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a cult.
The CNN Political Ticker blog reports, "When pressed by CNN's Candy Crowley on whether or not Romney is a Christian, neither candidate gave a firm answer — even when it was suggested they were dodging the question."
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday morning, "Presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain both were given point-blank opportunities this weekend to repudiate the words of a Dallas pastor who called Mormonism a 'cult' and said that Mitt Romney is not a Christian — and both took a pass."
Now that Romney's religion is a topic of discussion, New York Magazine forecasts a future where the issue remains a prominent platform moving forward for continued media analysis.
"The less Romney's religion — particularly how it is allegedly un-Christian and cult-like — becomes a topic of discussion, the better for Romney, but the remarks of Pastor Robert Jeffress at the Summit on Friday got the ball rolling. Both Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain dodged on Sunday when they were asked whether Mormons are Christians. As long as the question continues to elicit such awkward responses, the media is going to keep asking."
Romney offered a de facto response to Jeffress's criticism when he addressed the Values Voter Summit on Saturday, the day after the Dallas pastor introduced Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Romney "felt compelled to reiterate that he was in sync with social conservatives as he ran through his positions on abortion, marriage, judicial appointments and religious values," Saturday's Times story reported. "And as other speakers condemned homosexuality and raised questions about whether a Mormon is a true Christian, Mr. Romney emphasized that tolerance and civility were conservative values."
Yet Romney's insistence that he is a bona fide conservative isn't gaining traction with a key contingent of Republican voters, the Washington Post reports.
"The anti-Romney activists, many of whom identify with the tea party movement, say they are hesitant about Romney because they simply do not trust his conservative credentials, recalling his past support of abortion rights and a health-care mandate."
In Massachusetts, where Romney served as governor from 2003-07, the Bay State press is taking issue with Team Romney's position that Mitt met with less success during his gubernatorial tenure than Perry is finding in Texas because the Lone Star State is just an easier place to govern than Massachusetts. Indeed, the Boston Globe's website published an info-graphic Sunday comparing the demographics of Massachusetts and Texas. The data showcases Bay State advantages in categories such as "percentage of adults who have graduated high school" (Massachusetts leads, 89 percent to 80) and "millions of pounds of toxic chemicals released" (where Texas dominates, 207 to 6).