TAMPA — Ralph Reed, who has most definitely re-established himself as part of the GOP elite, dropped by earlier this week to talk about – among other things – religion and Mitt Romney.
The Republican presidential nominee will tonight take his Mormon faith front and center. Tonight’s invocation will be given by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
A longtime friend, who shared leadership roles in the Mormon church with Romney, will testify on his behalf.
Both Reed and I were struck by the fact that, for the first time in U.S. history, the presidential ticket of a major party will lack a Protestant. But Reed, who now heads up the Faith and Freedom Coalition, went deeper:
”What’s even more interesting is that you’re at a Republican convention that was founded specifically as a Northern, Protestant, anti-slavery party. Lincoln was critical to getting the Germans. That is why he got the nomination. A Republican couldn’t win without Pennsylvania in 1860.
“So if you look at it, this Northern Protestant party has become an evangelical party – but it’s an evangelical party where a Catholic cardinal [gave] the opening prayer, without a Protestant on the ticket, and a Mormon and a Catholic will probably get a larger raw number of evangelical votes than George W. Bush did in ’04.
“In fact, that’s not probable. That’s definite.”
Reed posited that most of the nation’s anti-Mormon prejudice doesn’t come from the right:
’What is more disturbing to me is that 41 percent of self-identified liberals in a recent Gallup poll said they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon. There is bigotry against Mormons. It’s on the left.”
Not that Southern Baptists have changed their mind, Reed said. But politically, they don’t matter as much:
”Remember, if you’ve got a grandma sitting in the third row of an independent Baptist , white sideboard church who can’t bring herself to vote for a Mormon because she believes it’s a heresy, she’s more than likely in north Georgia, upstate South Carolina or eastern Tennessee.
“And we don’t need her. But when you talk about the suburbs of Orlando, or the exurbs of Cincinnati, that’s not their deal. It’s not an issue.”
My AJC colleague Daniel Malloy was with the Georgia delegation when Attorney General Sam Olens took the stage:
The scene on the floor during early evening speeches is one of delegates milling about, conversing, taking photos, looking for someone famous and generally paying about half attention to what’s going on at the podium.
But Georgia’s delegates rose to their feet when one of the Peach State’s own, Attorney General Sam Olens, approached the podium with his Florida counterpart, Pam Bondi. Then, most of them sat back down. The joint speech wasn’t much of a rouser – it focused on their efforts to repeal Obamacare and other examples in their mind of federal overreach – but the Georgians lustily joined in a call-and-response portion of the speech and pronounced themselves pleased and proud afterward.
“I was excited that somebody from Georgia is on that stage,” said state party chair Sue Everhart. “I thought all his remarks were really good. I’ve known Sam Olens since the ‘90s when he ran the first time for [Cobb County] commissioner. He was a great commissioner and just like tonight he always rose to the top, like cream, and tonight he made a wonderful speech.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he did not consider the setting too overwhelming, as the Tampa Bay Times Forum was not much bigger than the arenas where Georgia state GOP conventions are held. But Kemp said speaking when the crowd isn’t hanging on your every word is a talent.
“One of the things you have to learn is just to be focused,” Kemp said. “It’s like that all the time. … You’re probably speaking more to the press than our audience to make sure that our message is out there and I think that’s what they were doing tonight.”
Also from the AJC’s Daniel Malloy:
Grovetown state Rep. Lee Anderson, the all-but-certain Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Augusta, arrived Wednesday in Tampa and was a popular fellow on the convention floor – posing for photos with delegates and glad-handing with bigwigs like former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
According to Anderson, it was all about consolidating the state’s Republicans behind him in the state’s most watched fall congressional contest. Anderson leads a runoff with Augusta businessman Rick Allen, who has vowed a long-shot recount once the result is certified.
“We’re just seeing the Republican family,” Anderson said. “We’ve had the most important race [in] the state of Georgia and we need the family behind us, and that’s why we’re here. We’ve got great support from all over the state. I’m talking to all them, some great senators, we are putting a plan together to beat John Barrow and also send Obama home too.”
It was a contrast with Barrow, who is distancing himself from the president and is not attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week. Anderson also voiced his support for vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan – Wednesday night’s speaker and a figure Democrats plan to wield against Republicans, particularly for his plan to eventually make Medicare into a voucher system. Ryan and Mitt Romney are striking back forcefully, accusing Obama of raiding Medicare in his health care law, and Ryan gave a well-received speech Wednesday night.
On the Ryan Medicare plan, Anderson said: “We have to look at all the proposals but what they are looking at will be a large amount of our change in our medical area, and I support it.”
On Ryan’s budget as a whole, he said: “You know, we can’t change it overnight. And it’s going to hurt. … But we’re going to bounce back and we’re going to be stronger than ever.”
Anderson, who has sometimes struggled in debate and forum settings, declined to debate Allen during the runoff. Asked whether he would debate Barrow, he replied: “We’ll be looking at situations where maybe we could possibly have some debates, yeah.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider