Ponderings on the Values Voters Summit

Each year in D.C., family-friendly organizations sponsor the Values Voters Summit, which ends with a straw poll to determine which candidate comes closest to the traditional Judeo-Christian moral values of the attendees. Two controversies emanated from this year’s summit: the first had to do with Ron Paul emerging as the winner of the poll, despite the fact that other candidates had stronger credentials for pro-life and pro-traditional marriage stances; the second revolved around a comment by a pastor that Mormonism is a cult, and not Christian.

Let’s deal with them in that order.

Paul seems to have a knack at doing well in these types of polls. Every time there’s a TV debate with the candidates, he always seems to come out on top when viewers are asked to phone in their choice for the winner. Yet his numbers are never very high in scientific polls. Why is this? As I’ve noted before, Paul has a loyal following that is deep, but not very wide. They are quite organized, especially in these types of situations. Attendees at the summit question the validity of the final result, where Paul took 37% and runner-up Herman Cain got 23%. I wasn’t there, but those who were noticed something: even though this summit lasted two days, an unusually high number showed up to register on the second day (about 600), listened to Paul speak, then left.

What was going on? There’s good reason to believe these were Paul supporters who showed up just for the purpose of voting for him, and that they had little interest in the overall summit, the purpose of which was to listen to all the candidates, then decide. They, in effect, were not true attendees with the same goals as the others; their goal was different. Critics of the final vote note that without those extra “attendees” on Saturday morning, Cain would have won the poll handily. In other words, it was a skewed result.

Reports are that Cain deeply impressed the real attendees, and that he had them on their feet constantly, generating tremendous enthusiasm. And Cain’s numbers in the scientific polls are far more impressive than Paul’s. One, a CBS poll, has him tied with Romney for the lead; another has him twenty points ahead, although that seems to be more dubious. Overall, though, Cain is making real strides toward the nomination, despite the charge against him that he has no government experience.

Then there’s the Mormonism issue with Romney, who is a member of the Mormon faith. The pastor who introduced Rick Perry labeled him a true Christian, as opposed to Romney, who was part of a cult. That has raised a ruckus, even to the point of calling the pastor a bigot. What to say about this?

First, the pastor is guilty of bad politics. If you are going to point out a departure from the Christian faith, you need to do so in a manner that allows a fuller explanation of your belief. It doesn’t fit in a short intro; all that does is provide ammunition for those who seek to denigrate your viewpoint. He needed a different venue for making the statement.

The substance of his comment, however, was accurate. Mormonism started in the 1820s, the brainchild of Joseph Smith, a man who was very good at coming up with schemes for making money. He said he was visited by angels. One of them told him where to dig to find an ancient book, and he [Smith] was the only one who could interpret what was in the book. Supposedly, the angel said that all the Christian denominations had fallen away from the true faith, and Smith was the only one with the whole truth. The Book of Mormon tells of an ancient civilization in North America descended from the lost tribes of Israel. The only problem is that there is no archeological evidence at all for this claim. Theologically, Mormonism doesn’t have the same view of who Jesus Christ is. He is not the unique, only-begotten Son of God. He’s no different than we are when we take our rightful place as rulers in eternity. There are too many differences with orthodox Christianity to list here. Suffice to say, the pastor was correct when he made the distinction. Mormonism is not a Christian denomination; it is something else entirely. That’s not a bigoted statement; it’s merely an observation based on the evidence.

Meanwhile, Romney, who is supposed to be the frontrunner, did very poorly at the Values Voters Summit, earning a mere 4% of voter preference. The true activists in the Republican party are not satisfied with Romney as the heir apparent:

This race is not over.