Charles Krauthammer’s NRO article today has some interesting things to say about Gov. Huckabee’s use of his faith:
Mormonism should be a total irrelevancy in any political campaign. It is not. Which is why Mitt Romney had to deliver his JFK “religion speech” this week. He didn’t want to. But he figured that he had to. Why? Because he’s being overtaken in Iowa. Why Iowa? Because about 40 percent of the Republican caucus voters in 2000 were self-described “Christian conservatives” — twice the number of those in New Hampshire, for example — and, for many of them, Mormonism is a Christian heresy.
That didn’t seem to matter for much of this year when Romney had a commanding lead and his religion seemed a manageable political problem — until Mike Huckabee came along and caught up to Romney in the Iowa polls.
The appealing aspects of Huckabee’s politics and persona account for much of this. But part of his rise in Iowa is attributable to something rather less appealing: playing the religion card. The other major candidates — John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson — either never figured out how to use it or had the decency to refuse to deploy it.
Huckabee has exploited Romney’s Mormonism with an egregious subtlety. Huckabee is running a very effective ad in Iowa about religion. “Faith doesn’t just influence me,” he says on camera, “it really defines me.” The ad then hails him as a “Christian leader.”
Then, he has you close your eyes and imagine a slightly different scenario:
Just imagine that Huckabee were running one-on-one in Iowa against Joe Lieberman. (It’s a thought experiment. Stay with me.) If he had run the same ad in those circumstances, it would have raised an outcry. The subtext — who’s the Christian in this race? — would have been too obvious to ignore, the appeal to bigotry too clear.
While we at EFM are skittish about the “bigotry” accusation, it is interesting that the reaction to Huckabee’s would be much different. Oh, and more thing:
…by Huckabee’s own logic, since he is not running for head of a theological college, what is he doing proclaiming himself a “Christian leader” in an ad promoting himself for president? Answer: Having the issue every which way.