Two Republican presidential candidates refused to say Sunday whether they believe Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is a Christian, while a third said he doesn't agree with a Texas pastor who called the religion a "cult."
Businessman Herman Cain and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann declined to answer questions about Romney's Mormon religion.
"He's a Mormon, that much I know," Cain said. "I am not going to do an analysis of Mormonism versus Christianity for the sake of answering that."
Bachmann called the issue a distraction.
"I think what the real focus is here, is on religious tolerance. That's really what this is about," Bachmann said. "To make this a big issue is ridiculous right now, because every day I'm on the street talking to people. This is not what people are talking about."
Both of those answers are total punts, though Bachmann gets points for punting more smoothly. One the one hand, how can you argue with her defending "religious tolerance." On the other hand, have you ever heard her talk about religious tolerance before? And isn't that a subtle way of describing Romney as "an other"? Plus, she managed to point out multiple times in the same interview that she has a firm faith. But yeah, she tolerates heathens like Romney, I guess.
Santorum went a step further than Cain or Bachmann and called Romney a good guy, which on the surface sounds like a defense:
"I'm not an expert on Mormonism. All I know is that every Mormon I know is a good and decent person, has great moral values," Santorum said.
He would have loved to leave it at that: notice Santorum never actually addressed Romney's faith, an obvious omission. But he had to answer a follow up.
But when asked if he believed Romney is "a true Christian," Santorum spoke somewhat haltingly: "Mitt Romney is a true, he says he's a Christian. I believe he said Christian."
In other words, well, that's what he's saying. Not me!
The only guy who was actually willing to criticize the attacks on Romney was Newt Gingrich:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another GOP presidential contender, criticized Jeffress' comments on Sunday, calling them "very unwise and very inappropriate."
"I think that none of us should sit in judgment on somebody else's religion," Gingrich said. "I think he's a Mormon and Mormons define themselves as a branch of Christianity."
I guess he can smell the VP nomination from his window.