Shortly before noon, reporters at the Values Voter Summit were handed a blue sheet of paper with a news alert: "Southern Baptist Convention Leader to Endorse Perry at Values Voter Summit." Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Texas pastor, was all set to introduce his governor, and he had some thoughts. "Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person, or one who is a born again follower of Jesus Christ?" Get it? "In Rick Perry, we have a candidate who is... a committed follower of Christ." Get it?
Okay, I'll get it for you: Jeffress doesn't like Mormonism. Scott Keyes reminds me that Jeffress became briefly infamous in 2007 for his rants against Mitt Romney, and the unacceptability of a Mormon nominee. Romney, he said, was a "cult" member.
I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian. The value of electing a Christian goes beyond public policies. . . . Christians are uniquely favored by God, [while] Mormons, Hindus and Muslims worship a false god. The eternal consequences outweigh political ones. It is worse to legitimize a faith that would lead people to a separation from God.
At 2:30, Jeffress took the stage, as promised, and repeated his statement, adding to it. Perry was a "genuine follower of Jesus Christ!"
Perry walked onstage and thanked Jeffress for the endorsement.
"He really knocked it out of the park!"
UPDATE: After the speeches, Jeffress walked through the hotel doing interview after interview about his take on Mormonism."Article 6 of the Constitution says government can impose no religious tests," he said. "But private citizens can impose all the tests they like!"
In the scrum, I asked if he'd expressed these concerns to Perry. "No. He is not aware of my views on Mormonism," he said, "nor am I aware of his."
What does Romney's religion say about his judgment?
"There are a lot of good people who are mislead," he said. "Being a fine person with a great family and great values does not get you to heaven."
Here's five minutes of answers; apologies for the dark video quality.