Rick Perry’s Use of Religion Shows the Little Devil in Him

Bookmark and Share    Texas Governor Rick Perry finds himself struggling to stay above water in the wake of several bad debate performances.  While the debates have helped Newt Gingrich, they have completely devastated Perry.  And in his struggle to recover, he has tried just about everything.  He was one of the first candidates to start running televised commercials in Iowa.  He has tried to present several bold proposals, including a 20% flat plan that has some merit.  He has even run with some self-deprecating humor that poked fun at his own debate performances. 

Now, as Perry’s campaign continues to run on a wing and a prayer, Perry is turning to religion an ambiguously injecting it in to the race in a devious way.

In a recent thirty second television commercial [see the video below], a confident, well spoken, Rick Perry looks in to the camera and says;

“When you run for president, you get a bunch of questions about your faith.  People want to know what drives you, how you make decisions. Now, some liberals say that faith is a sign of weakness. Well, they’re wrong. I think we all need God’s help. America’s greatest leaders have been people of strong faith, strong values. That makes for a strong America. I’m Rick Perry. I’m not ashamed to talk about my faith.”

The spot is actually quite good and it strikes a chord with the very voters that one needs to win over if they want to win the Iowa Caucus………evangelicals.

Evangelicals make up the bulk of the activist Republican base in Iowa.  They are the people who do the convincing of their neighbors, organizing of the voters, and mobilizing of the vote.  And this time around in Iowa, the evangelical vote is split.  Until recently, Herman Cain had been winning many of them over, but he was still sharing much of the evangelical vote with Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, as well as Rick Perry and even Newt Gingrich.  While others like Ron Paul, and Mit Romney are getting their share of that vote, the bulk was going to others previously mentioned.  And it is that division of the evangelical vote that may allow Mitt Romney to win the Iowa Caucus.

Which brings us back to Rick Perry’s new ad.

While the ad will strike a very favorable chord with evangelical voters, it is also subtly raising and questi0ning Mitt Romney’s faith

As a Mormon, Romney has been the victim of great prejudice, ironically, by some of the most religious voters. 

Many evangelical Christians, question Romney’s ability to lead because they believe that his Mormon faith is unchristian and some even consider it to be a cult. 

Rick Perry already caught some flak  for this type of prejudice after  Southern Baptist Convention leader Robert Jeffress endorsed him and then proceeded to tell reporters  that Mormonism is a “cult” and that voting for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney would “give credibility to a cult”.

For this, Perry was asked by many to reject Jeffress and his endorsement, or at least distance him from that view.  Perry’s campaign did release a statement that read, “The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult. He is not in the business of judging people. That’s God’s job.”  

Now Rick Perry is doing a job with God by bringing religion back in to play.

He does so in a way that people of faith and those who respect faith and religion, can appreciate. But the last line of the ad would seem to be aimed less at attracting God-fearing voters and more at having them give Mitt Romney the cold shoulder.  When Perry states, “I’m not ashamed to talk about my faith”, it puts Mitt Romney in awkward position.

While Mitt is not ashamed of his religion, given the prejudices that still exist towards Mormons, Romney does not try to highlight religion.  But Perry’s line would seem to challenge Mitt Romney to start doing so and it is designed to make evangelicals wonder why Mitt does not interject more references to his faith in the election.  At the very least, the line makes those Christians who have doubts about Romeny and Mormons, to wonder why Romney does’nt talk about his faith, and then conclude that it is because Mormonism is not a good thing.

Whether this strategy will help Rick Perry get a big enough share of the evangelical vote in Iowa to win their Caucus, is doubtful.  Perry is so far down in the polls that he really will need to turn to religion and pray for a miracle to turn things around for him.  But even if his play on anti-Mormon sentiments doesn’t win him enough votes to win the Caucus, it could help suppress Romney’s numbers enough to allow someone other than Mitt to win.  At this juncture in time, that would be enough to buy Rick Perry a little more time to get back on track.  

So long as Mitt does not win in Iowa, the Republican nomination contest remains competitive and allows the focus to move to South, where Perry is his strongest.

In his thirty second ad, Rick Perry may not mention Mitt Romney or Mormons in any way, but in what is a well a crafted script that defends religion, Rick Perry is showing the little devil in him by slyly revealing one of Mitt Romney’s Achilles heals his religion.  The saddest part of it is that after electing our nation’s first President of color, you would think that we have broken the barriers of prejudice in America.  Maybe we have, but based upon the thinking behind the Perry strategy,  it is obvious to me that we still  have a long way to go.

On a final note  this ad, yet again, demonstrates  how great a candidate Rick Perry can be…………….when scripted.

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