Tom Smart, Deseret News
At a Tuesday campaign stop in Utah, Sen. Orrin Hatch preemptively accused Pres. Barack Obama's re-election campaign of plotting to drag down prospective opponent Mitt Romney by assailing Romney's LDS faith.
Politico's David Cantanese reported that, during a campaign event in Farmington, Hatch ominously warned a group of state GOP delegates, "You watch, they're going to throw the Mormon church at (Romney) like you can't believe."
When later asked during a subsequent interview to elaborate on those comments, the six-term senator singled out two top Obama aides: campaign guru David Axelrod and White House operative David Plouffe. "Hatch went even as far to say he thought the duo had already played the religion card against the likely GOP nominee, but failed to point to any evidence of it," Cantanese wrote.
The Obama campaign quickly responded to Hatch's accusation by pointing to something spokesman Ben Labolt told the Huffington Post in November: "Attacking a candidate's religion is out of bounds, and our campaign will not engage in it."
The concern that Team Obama might eventually turn to religion as a vehicle for undercutting Romney is nothing new. In January, Kyle-Anne Shiver blogged for the American Thinker a post headlined, "Brace Yourself for the Anti-Mormon Slime Machine."
"I would be quite dishonest if I said that I wasn't worried about what the liberals and their lackeys in the press will do to defame The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in their win-at-any-cost zeal to re-elect Barack Obama," Shiver wrote. "Mitt Romney's religious faith is likely to be mocked, sensationalized, disparaged and dragged through the media gutters. It could even be uglier than the fanning of racial tensions and demonization of the wealthy, also projects pushed by the Obama machine."
The very next day, the Deseret News' Joseph Walker responded to Shiver's post: "It is difficult to imagine that running against President Obama will draw out any more anti-Mormon rhetoric than the current Republican campaign has drawn."
UPDATE: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who chairs of the Democratic National Committee, attacked Hatch's statements during a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC. "That suggestion is utter nonsense. Lets remember that President Obama has had so many things hurled at him — birth certificate questions, whether he is or is not a Christian. For them to suggest that religion will be injected (into the election) by President Obama and the Democratic Party, I mean, I think they need to take a look inward at the accusations that their party and their supporters have hurled before they take that step."
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