The poll results:
Perry 8%, Bachmann 8%
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, the group that was behind Perry’s prayer meeting in August, later cast doubts on the voting, suggesting that Paul’s supporters had stuffed the ballot boxes. The summit is an annual gathering of social conservatives and evangelicals held in Washington.
One of the major developments at the meeting was a flap over Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith. From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — A Texas pastor introduced Rick Perry at a major conference of Christian conservatives here on Friday as “a genuine follower of Jesus Christ” and then walked outside and attacked Mitt Romney’s religion, calling the Mormon Church a cult and stating that Mr. Romney “is not a Christian.”
The comments by the pastor, Robert Jeffress, of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, injected a potentially explosive issue into the presidential campaign: the belief held by many evangelicals that Mormons are not Christians.
And it raised immediate suspicions that the attack might have been a way for surrogates or supporters of Mr. Perry, the Texas governor, who has stumbled in recent weeks, to gain ground by raising religious concerns about Mr. Romney. Mr. Jeffress similarly attacked Mr. Romney and his faith during the 2008 campaign.
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I had exactly the same reaction to Rev. Jeffress’s statements: The Perry campaign put him up to it. It’s straight from the Perry playbook. Get someone else to disseminate an insidious comment about your opponent and then distance yourself from the comment. In this case, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said, “The governor does not believe Mormonism is a cult.”
There is a simple way to avoid the impression that you are attacking someone’s religion: You disavow the initial statement by Rev. Jeffress, who is Perry supporter. There was no disavowal.