Religion has taken center stage in the GOP primary election.
It started the other day when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee began running an ad in Iowa in which, according to reporter Ariel Alexovich writing in the NY Times, he says "Faith doesn't just influence me, it really defines me."
That raised some eyebrows, not because Huckabee claimed he was the Big Christian in the campaign, but because it was seen as a bank shot against Mitt Romney being the Big Mormon in the campaign.
Alexovich wrote that the ad was designed to set Huckabee "apart from Republican rivals: Mitt Romney, a Mormon; Rudy Giuliani, a Catholic who is twice-divorced; and Fred Thompson, also a Christian conservative but one who is not campaigning as doggedly in the Hawkeye State."
Huckabee, running a very close second against Romney in Iowa, thus, was the first candidate to drop the Mormon Bomb on Mitt.
But that was just the start.
On Tuesday, a businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, who had attended a fundraiser for Romney in Las Vegas, wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that he had asked Romney whether he would consider having a Muslim in his cabinet.
Specifically, according to Ijaz, he had asked "whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters …"
Romney, again, according to this single report, responded that "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
Yikes! Romney appeared to be suggesting that positions in his cabinet would be based upon a formula: How many Americans are of the same faith of the person being considered. If there are enough people of that religion, then he or she gets the nomination. If not, it's a Junior, Deputy, Under-Assistant, Subordinate Secretary job for you, pal.
If percentage of the population is the test, and you're a Rosicrucian, the best will be able to hope for in a Romney administration will be being given a stick with a nail on the end, picking up used cardboard cups on the National Mall after the annual Independence Day celebration.
Sen. John McCain jumped on the Romney remark by saying: "I think his comment is indicative of how he might govern, and I think it's absolutely wrong … to somehow exclude any group of Americans, in my view, is, well, it just is not the way to go."
Later in the day, Romney refined his answer and, according to CBSnews.com told reporters:
"I'm open to having people of any faith and ethnic group but they would be selected based on their capacity and their capabilities and the values and skills that they could bring to the administration, but I don't choose people based on checking off a box."
Which appears to be the opposite of what he had said at that fundraiser in Las Vegas.
The matter of Mitt Romney's religion has been simmering just under the surface of this campaign for a year or more. With Huckabee's ad and Romney's reported comment, the notion of religion - especially the Mormon religion - in the Republican primary is now at a full boil.
Pray for a good seat. This is going to be very interesting to watch.
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