Two new stories suggest that while Rick Perry has said he doesn't believe Mormonism is a cult, as one of his backers characterized the LDS Church, Perry's campaign team might be cheerleading negative messages about the Mormon faith, and his backers might be behind them.
First, The Daily Beast's McKay Coppins wrote about a series of emails that appear to show "Perry's team may be quietly advancing the notion that Mitt Romney's faith should disqualify him from the White House."
The emails obtained by The Daily Beast are an exchange between David Lane, "a conservative Christian power broker who directed fundraising for Perry's August prayer rally and was reportedly among the leading voices in the evangelical community lobbying for the Texas governor to jump into the 2012 race," and Christian talk radio magnate Dick Bott.
"Juxtaposing traditional Christianity to the false god of Mormonism (is) very important in the larger scheme of things," Lane wrote.
The scope of Lane's political influence is nothing to scoff at. Indeed, earlier this year bestselling author and former White House staffer Doug Wead blogged that Lane is "the mysterious, behind-the-scenes, evangelical kingmaker who stormed into Iowa in 2008 and tilted the whole thing from Romney to Huckabee."
Perry's campaign spokesman said the emails were a private exchange with no tie to the campaign.
The second story is about one of Romney's top evangelical advisers, Mark DeMoss, who told the Huffington Post that he believes Perry's election team is injecting questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into the campaign.
"A week ago I would have said there's no way, I can't conceive of a major candidate's campaign intentionally using such tactics," DeMoss said. "It was inconceivable to me that that could be the case, just because I think it's not smart politically."
But when Baptist Pastor Robert Jefress, who has called the LDS Church a cult, made Mormonism an issue while introducing Perry at a campaign event and then continued making the same points, DeMoss became suspicious.
"I would have bet money when Robert Jeffress surfaced there in Washington and then started going on TV programs that somebody would have gotten him to stop doing interviews," he said. "And he did them for a couple days. That's what made me question it whether they wanted him doing it or not. If they didn't want him doing it, I think they could have stopped him from doing it. I think they would have asked him and said, 'This isn't helping us.'"
The same Perry campaign spokesman told the Huffington Post that the Perry campaign has not encouraged what HuffPo described as "anti-Mormon sentiment."
Jeffress made his introduction of Perry Oct. 7 at the Values Voter Summit, where Jeffress, according to Politico, "described Romney's Mormon faith as a 'cult,' and said evangelicals had only one real option in the 2012 primaries."
On Monday Politico's Maggie Haberman wrote, "A major unanswered question right now as the fall campaign takes shape is whether Romney's Mormonism will remain an obstacle among the evangelical voters in the GOP. … There is little question it was at least something of an issue for him last cycle. … The surest way for Perry to get a second look is for Romney's negatives to go up — a fact his supporters seem to realize."
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