Republicans Tout Unity; Christians Say Romney's Mormon Faith Not an Issue

TAMPA, Fla. – Despite a number of stories in the media trying to highlight divisions within the party, Republican backers from the Tea Party, evangelicals, Catholics, libertarians and foreign policy conservatives are voicing strong unity in support of the Romney/Ryan ticket during the Republican National Convention in Tampa and are eager to campaign against Barack Obama. The religious conservatives also emphasize that Romney's Mormon faith is not an issue.

A Sunday New York Times article argued that, in some ways, the Republican Party is more split than ever.

"There are evangelicals, Tea Party adherents, supply-siders who would accept no tax increases and a dwindling band of deficit hawks who might. There are economic libertarians who share little of the passion that social conservatives hold on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. There are neoconservatives who want a hard line against Iran and the Palestinians, and realists who are open to diplomatic deal-cutting," Adam Nagourney wrote.

Republican leaders at their convention this week in Tampa are trying to put that notion of a divided party to rest.

At a Wednesday event hosted by "Patriot Voices," a grassroots political advocacy organization started by Rick Santorum, Ralph Reed said that reporters were trying to bait him into speaking ill of Romney's religion so that they could write a story of division.

At an event that morning, Reed said, "some reporter came up, shoved a microphone in my face, they asked a question I'm not even going to repeat, but it was denigrating Mitt Romney's faith, trying to get me to say something negative about Mitt Romney's religion. I told them, last time I checked there's not a religious test to serve as president of the United States."

Reed introduced one of Mitt Romney's sons, Matt Romney, who also spoke at the event. Reed is the founder of Faith and Freedom Coalition, a social conservative political advocacy organization, and once headed the Christian Coalition. He emphasized the importance of the shared values between evangelical Christians and Latter-day Saints in choosing a president.

"I'm looking for someone who shares my values, not somebody that necessarily goes to the same church that I do," Reed said.

Mike Huckabee specifically addressed the issue of whether an evangelical will support Mitt Romney because he is a Latter-day Saint.

"I care far less about where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than I do about where he takes this country," Huckabee said in his Wednesday night convention speech.

Huckabee ran against Romney for the Republican nomination in 2008. Before he got into politics and became the longest serving governor of Arkansas, Huckabee was a Southern Baptist preacher. As such, he is well regarded among many politically conservative evangelicals.

Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, made a similar point. Ryan, a Catholic, emphasized the commonality between Catholicism and Mormonism.

"Our faiths come together in the same moral creed," Ryan said.

Wednesday night's speeches also featured former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. John McCain, who argued for greater U.S. leadership globally, particularly in the Middle East.

Sen. Rand Paul also spoke. His father, Rep. Ron Paul, ran against Romney for the nomination and advocated a withdrawal of troops from foreign conflicts. The Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," is unconstitutional, Paul argued, and to repeal it, "we have to have a new president!"

At the "Patriot Voices" event, Ted Cruz, the Republican candidate running for the U.S. Senate in Texas, observed that the various factions of the Republican Party, such as Tea Partiers, libertarians and evangelical Christians, are unified because they share the goal of defeating President Barack Obama.

Cruz won his primary election with strong Tea Party support. Since the Tea Party Movement generally preferred other candidates to Romney during nomination process, some have wondered whether Tea Party supporters will help Romney win in November. Cruz believes they will.

"Sometimes those in the media ask if the Tea Party is going to support Mitt Romney," Cruz said. "I will tell you, personally, I've spoken to tens of thousands of Tea Party activists and I happily consider myself one of them. And I do not know a single Tea Party activist anywhere who is not going to show up in November, pull the lever for Mitt Romney and help defeat Barack Obama."

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