The character attacks on Romney will focus on what critics view as a makeover, both personal (skinny jeans) and political (abortion) … Democrats also plan to amplify what Obama strategists described as the “weirdness” quotient, the sum of awkward public encounters and famous off-kilter anecdotes, first among them the tale of Romney having strapped his dog to the roof of his car.
None of the Obama advisers interviewed made any suggestion that Romney’s personal qualities would be connected to his minority Mormon faith, but the step from casting Romney as a bit off to raising questions about religion may not be a large step for some of the incumbent’s supporters.
Look, I don’t like to play the religion card. Really, I don’t. But . . come on. Does anyone in their right mind think that skinny jeans and a couple awkward anecdotes make a person “weird” enough to launch a national backlash? Ross Douthat explains what’s going on:
Indeed. The crucial thing to understand here is that Romney’s Latter Day Saint affiliation isn’t just a potential liability among evangelical voters in Republican primaries. It’s a potential general election liability as well. In a recent Gallup poll, 18 percent of Republicans described themselves as unwilling to vote for a Mormon candidate — but that number actually climbed to 19 percent among Independents, and 27 percent among Democrats.
Who are these non-conservative Mormon skeptics? Well, their ranks probably include a lot of theologically conservative/politically liberal Christians (mainly African American and Hispanic ) who regard Mormonism as a dangerous heresy, and a lot of secular liberals who dislike the L.D.S.’s positions (and politicking) on issues like gay marriage. But most likely some of them are people who don’t have a particular theological or political ax to grind, who know Mormonism primarily through pop culture (from “Big Love” and “Sister Wives” to “South Park” and “The Book of Mormon”) and the occasional encounter with bicycling missionaries, and who have a vague sense of the L.D.S. church as little bit cultish, a little bit outside-the-mainstream, and a little bit, well, weird. Presumably the Obama campaign sees this half-formed attitude as the fertile ground in which its “Romney the weirdo” seeds will take root and grow.
Douthat doesn’t think the “weirdness” strategy will work, but we already know the Left will go directly after Mormons when it feels threatened.
So get ready. Soon — very soon — other Republicans will come hard after Mitt. And when they do, their attacks may very well be supplemented by Obama’s own negative campaign, a campaign that may very well have bigotry at its core.