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Reed: Voters looking for a CEO, not a pastor

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed said Tuesday the flap over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Mormonism won't matter to voters in the battle to choose the Republican presidential nominee next year.

"Look, at the risk of stating the obvious, evangelicals and the Mormon Church have deep and abiding theological differences," Mr. Reed said in an interview on The Washington Times-affiliated "America's Morning News." "I don't think that's a big news flash; that's been true since the 19th century. And it's not just true of evangelicals — it's true of orthodox Christianity generally. They do not subscribe to the theological tenets of Mormonism.

"Having said that, I think, in a political context, evangelical voters specifically, and Americans generally, know that they're not electing a pastor, they're not electing a bishop, they're not choosing the pope. What they're doing is they're electing the CEO of America.

"And they will judge all of these candidates — not just Romney and [former Utah Gov. Jon] Huntsman, but fellow evangelicals, like [Rep. Michele] Bachmann, [businessman Herman] Cain and [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry — they're going to judge them whether they're co-religionists or whether they don't share their religion, based on their values, their stands on the issues and their ability to lead."

Mr. Romney's Mormon faith has become a hot topic in the 2012 race after a leading Southern Baptist pastor on Friday told reporters that Mormonism is a "cult" and that Mormons are not Christians. The Rev. Robert Jeffress, a supporter of Mr. Perry's, made the comments last week at the Values Voters Summit, a gathering of conservative Christian leaders.

Mr. Reed, who now heads Century Strategies, a public relations and public affairs firm, said evangelicals may have legitimate reasons not to support Mr. Romney.

"If [Mr. Romney] has vulnerabilities, and he clearly does, I think his vulnerablities are much more his evolution on moral issues like abortion than where he goes to church or where he was baptized," Mr. Reed said.

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