Newt Gingrich fired his Iowa political director for saying, "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" in a focus group a day before Gingrich hired him last week. The staffer, Craig Bergman, was fired after the Des Moines Register noticed the comment Tuesday. Still, the incident recalls how in October, Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress picked the Values Voter Summitt to endorse Rick Perry -- and denounce Mormons as cultists. (Perry eventually condemned the remark.) But the difference this time is the comment comes just as Mitt Romney is ready to talk about his religion.
Evangelicals' skepticism about Ronney's faith helped Mike Huckabee win the Iowa caucuses in 2008. Four years later, 41 percent of Republicans who plan to vote in caucuses or primaries still say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon, the New York Times' Ashley Parker reports. But Parker says Romney has started talking about his faith more as the campaign seeks to "humanize" him, including his days as a Mormon missionary in France, when he had no toilet. A Romney aide said it wasn't official strategy to talk more about his faith -- it's just that "maybe because it’s Christmastime, he’s sort of more reflective?" But Reuters notices Romney talking about religion to counter the perception that he's a rich dude who's clueless how regular people live -- as seen when he tried to get Perry to take a $10,000 bet at Saturday's debate. In New Hampshire Monday, talked about counseling people when he was a Mormon leader in Boston, saying, "What struck me, not having grown up in poverty, was revealing and important to me."
Which campaign do the Mormon comments help the most? The Obama reelection team thinks it's them. Slate's John Dickerson reports that an Obama's campaign presentation Tuesday sought to "to convince us that the Republican nominating fight has become extremely ugly… Ultimately the Republican nominee doesn’t matter, said the president’s men, because the GOP nomination is an ever more extreme contest controlled by the far reaches of the Tea Party."