- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 24, 2011

THE MORMON FACTOR

Doubts about Mitt Romney’s fitness for the White House disappear when skittish Republicans, conservatives and even evangelicals consider the alternative: another four years of President Obama and his evolving administration. The emotionally charged issue is revealed in stark numbers:

“As Republican and Republican-leaning voters evaluate Romney, very few say his faith is a factor. A majority of Republican and Republican-leaning voters (56 percent) know that Romney is a Mormon. But just 8 percent say Romney’s religion makes them less likely to vote for him; 44 percent say it would not make a difference,” says a comprehensive survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Still, among white evangelical Republican voters, 15 percent say Mr. Romney’s religion would make them less likely to support him; among that group, Herman Cain remains the favorite. But there’s is a noteworthy dynamic at work should Mr. Romney — aka the “inevitable” candidate — face Mr. Obama in the 2012 race.

“There is no evidence that Romney’s Mormon faith would prevent rank-and-file Republicans, including white evangelicals, from coalescing around him if he wins the GOP nomination. Rather, the same Republicans who may have doubts about Romney’s faith are among the most vehement opponents of Barack Obama,” the Pew study says. “Fully 91 percent of white evangelical Republican voters say they would back Romney over Obama in a general election matchup.”

ROMNEYPHOBIA

Settle for Mitt Romney? Abandon the idea of a purist conservative standard-bearer? Aw, go ahead, says 2008 presidential contender Mike Huckabee, who has emerged on Republican radar after advising conservatives to get over their doubts about Mr. Romney and stop obsessing about perfection.

Mitt Romney every day of the week and twice on Sunday is going to be a much more effective president for issues that they care about than Barack Obama. And I think sometimes there is this anxiety within the Republican Party of who is the perfect candidate. The answer is: There isn’t one,” Mr. Huckabee recently told WABC radio.

Contrary to persistent rumor, Mr. Huckabee is not ready to endorse Mr. Romney. He is ready to wrangle Mr. Romney, however — along with a quartet of Republican hopefuls.

In the oncoming rush of debates, Mr. Huckabee will moderate a live, 90-minute candidate forum for Fox News on Dec. 3, showcasing the former Massachusetts governor, along with Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

Businessman Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. are undecided about joining the broadcast.

Joining Mr. Huckabee to pose questions to the hopefuls are three state attorneys general: Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II of Virginia, Pam Bondi of Florida and E. Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma.

CANDIDATE TRACKER

The Republican hopefuls are starting to get antsy, even as the holiday season sparkles ahead. The reason: the Iowa caucuses are just over a month away, generating a kind of Pavlovian response among the candidates, who may salivate and whine at the thought of the campaign trail. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appears to be the busiest at the moment; some of the candidates have taken the weekend off. Here’s where the intrepid few will be in the next 72 hours:

Florida: Mr. Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

New Hampshire: former Sen. Rick Santorum, Mr. Gingrich

South Carolina: Mr. Gingrich

OCCUPADO

Black Friday may be an Annoying Friday as well. The Occupy Wall Street crowd plans to “occupy” businesses as well during the pivotal shopping hours after Thanksgiving. They have a website (stopblackfriday.com), lots of Facebook and Twitter noise, and a strategy too.

Supporters are urged to “occupy large chains and publicly traded retailers — we are not occupying small businesses or hardworking people. We must make a distinction between the businesses that are in the pockets of Wall Street and the businesses that serve our local communities. We are not anti-capitalist. Just anti-crapitalist.”

Their targets for possible rallies, protests, boycotts or sit-ins: Abercrombie & Fitch, Amazon.com, AT&T Wireless, Burlington Coat Factory, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dollar Tree, the Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, OfficeMax, Toys R Us, Verizon Wireless, Wal-Mart.

RETAIL ADVENTURE

The aforementioned Occupy Black Friday crowd may have a tough audience. Shopping apparently has become the newest source of family mythology.

“Consumers can find sales at just about any time of the year nowadays,” says Sheri Bridges a marketing professor at Wake Forest University. “For many people, it’s the retail adventure that they don’t want to miss — the novel experiences that make for stories to share with family and friends.”

Yeah, well. Ms. Bridges has suggestions on how to how to make “Black Friday shopping day share-worthy,” which include building memories by recording shopping finds with a smartphone and donning a specially designated sweater, shirt or jacket to build “positive feelings.”

POLL DU JOUR

• 73 percent of Americans say the U.S. is in a recession.

• 79 percent of conservatives, 83 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of liberals agree.

• 53 percent of Americans overall say “the worst is yet to come” in the U.S. economy.

• 69 percent of conservatives, 67 percent of Republicans, 36 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of liberals agree.

• 41 percent of Americans overall say “the worst is behind us.”

• 26 percent of conservatives, 29 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of liberals agree.

• 50 percent of Americans overall plan to spend the same amount on holiday shopping this year as they did last year.

• 42 percent say they will spend less; 7 percent say they will spend more.

Source: A Marist College poll of 1,026 U.S. adults conducted Nov. 8-10.

Tipline always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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