Cain: Rom­ney’s Mor­monism is bar­rier to GOP nod

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Her­man Cain says fron­trun­ner Mitt Rom­ney can­not win the party’s White House nom­i­na­tion next year be­cause of his re­li­gion.

“Rom­ney would be a good choice, but I don’t be­lieve he can win,” Mr. Cain told ed­i­tors and re­porters of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Mr. Cain on July 18 be­came the first of Mr. Rom­ney’s nine de­clared and po­ten­tial nom­i­na­tion ri­vals to say pub­licly and ex­plic­itly some­thing long whis­pered: namely, that the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor’s Mor­monism is an ob­sta­cle too big to over­come in the most solidly Repub­li­can re­gion in the coun­try. The South has a high con­cen­tra­tion of evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tants, many of whom doubt the le­git­i­macy of the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints.

“I know the South, and you have to win the South. Mitt Rom­ney did not win it when he ran against John McCain” in the 2008 pri­maries, said Mr. Cain. “The rea­son he will have a dif­fi­cult time win­ning the South this time is be­cause when he ran the first time, he did not do a good job of com­mu­ni­cat­ing his re­li­gion. It doesn’t bother me, but I know it is an is­sue with a lot of South­ern­ers.”

Mr. Cain, a re­tired cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive who made a ca­reer out of res­cu­ing dy­ing com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing the fal­ter­ing God­fa­ther’s pizza chain, ar­gued that a Repub­li­can can­di­date needs to win South­ern states.

“If you don’t win South Carolina, Ge­or­gia and Florida, you can’t win the nom­i­na­tion. And then you can’t win the pres­i­dency,” he said.

How­ever, Mr. Rom­ney is polling well in the South, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est round of sur­veys.

A just-re­leased Amer­i­can Re­search Group poll in South Carolina, one of the first four states on the of­fi­cial pri­mary calendar, has Mr. Rom­ney lead­ing, with sup­port from 25 per­cent of the sam­ple of 600 likely Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers.

Mr. Cain is fourth in the poll at 10 per­cent, be­hind Rep. Michele Bach­mann of Min­nesota, who has 13 per­cent. Mr. Cain and Mrs. Bach­mann turn out rel­a­tively large num­bers of tea party ac­tivists for their getac­quainted events. For­mer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin placed sec­ond with 16 per­cent, even though the 2008 Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee has re­mained mum about whether she will run.

In 2008, Mr. Cain sup­ported Mr. Rom­ney, him­self a hugely suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man with a “turn-it-around” rep­u­ta­tion. Mr. Rom­ney took over man­age­ment of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when it looked as if it would run out of money be­fore it even got started.

“I like Mitt. I sup­ported him in the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” said Mr. Cain, who soft­ened his of­ten boom­ing bari­tone voice al­most to a whis­per. “I don’t think he is go­ing to be any stronger this time around against Barack Obama, even though Obama has a ter­ri­ble record.”

The South is heav­ily pop­u­lated with evan­gel­i­cals, fun­da­men­tal­ists and other tra­di­tion­al­ist-lean­ing Chris­tians who widely con­sider Mr. Rom­ney’s church not to be a Chris­tian sect. They claim it ei­ther de­nies or unrecognizably re­de­fines such Chris­tian doc­trines as the Trin­ity, orig­i­nal sin, the atone­ment, the con­ti­nu­ity of the church and the canon of Scrip­ture. De­nounc­ing Mor­monism is a sta­ple of some Chris­tian TV and ra­dio pro­grams and net­works.

Mr. Cain, who has been polling in the high sin­gle dig­its among Repub­li­can vot­ers in na­tional polls, raised $2.6 mil­lion in the April-to-June re­port­ing pe­riod, com­pared with $18 mil­lion raised by Mr. Rom­ney.

But Mr. Cain said com­par­ing the sec­ond-quar­ter sums isn’t im­por­tant be­cause he will raise enough, along with his “com­mon-sense” ap­peal to rank-and­file vot­ers, to win in the end, even if his fundrais­ing is be­low the top two in the field.

The Ge­or­gian also said he is happy to get 6 per­cent to 10 per­cent in na­tional polls at this point, given that a few months ago he wasn’t even on any polls be­cause his can­di­dacy wasn’t taken se­ri­ously.

He said he has been win­ning straw polls among tea party and other con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists, more even than Mrs. Bach­mann, his prin­ci­pal ri­val among de­clared can­di­dates for tea party sup­port, in­clud­ing in The Wash­ing­ton Times/Con­ser­va­tive Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence poll in Ne­vada on July 9.

“She said she doesn’t have an ex­clu­sive fran­chise on their love,” he said. “I think they love both of us equally. Some of them haven’t de­cided which one they are go­ing to cast their vote for, but they love us both equally.”

Mr. Cain men­tioned a Lin­coln Day din­ner in the Deep South, where he was greeted with an out­pour­ing of en­thu­si­asm from the 350 peo­ple in at­ten­dance, about 60 of whom were black.

“I was sur­prised there are that many black con­ser­va­tives in Birm­ing­ham, Alabama,” Mr. Cain said with a smile and a twin­kle in his eye.

He also touted his oft-praised man­ner as part of the rea­son he would be the ideal can­di­date to con­front Mr. Obama, re­puted to be an elo­quent speaker, but whom Mr. Cain said only once per­suaded the pub­lic of any­thing, to go along with his health care bill.

The dif­fer­ence is, he said, “I have charisma with sub­stance.”

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hopeful Her­man Cain came in fourth in a new poll of GOP pri­mar y vot­ers in South Carolina at 10 per­cent.

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