Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith has been less of an overt issue so far in the 2012 presidential race than it was in 2008 but it’s still lurking out there.
That was demonstrated Tuesday when Newt Gingrich’s Iowa political director stepped down after he made a comment during a focus group about the antipathy some evangelical Christians have for Mormons.
An excerpt from a report in The Iowa Republican on the focus group provides a sense of what Craig Bergman said. Bergman recently became one of Gingrich’s top Iowa aides:
“There is a national pastor who is very much on the anti-Mitt Romney bandwagon,” Craig Bergman said. “A lot of the evangelicals believe God would give us four more years of Obama just for the opportunity to expose the cult of Mormon…There’s a thousand pastors ready to do that.”
Jennifer Jacobs, political writer at the Des Moines Register, reports that Bergman’s comment was enough to end Bergman’s brief tenure with the Gingrich campaign.
“In a statement this evening, the Gingrich campaign said Bergman had ‘agreed to step away from his role with Newt 2012.’
” ‘He made a comment to a focus group prior to becoming an employee that is inconsistent with Newt 2012′s pledge to run a positive and solutions orientated campaign,’ spokesman R.C. Hammond said in the statement.”
As Jacobs reminds us, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was put in an uncomfortable spot a few months back when one of his evangelical supporters, Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, called Mormonism “a cult.” Perry was pressured by Romney and journalists to repudiate the pastor’s comments; the Texan said he didn’t share Jeffress’ views.