Rick Santorum stirred up a little faith-based tempest over the weekend when he appeared before the Ohio Christian Alliance on Saturday and declared that President Obama's agenda is "not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology." Over the next couple of news cycles, reporters endeavored to ascertain what he was talking about.
At a follow-up news conference, the evident GOP frontrunner denied he was calling the president's Christian identity into question. Later he claimed to be referring to the President's policies on the environment, (he "elevates the Earth above man"), pre-natal testing, and the contraception coverage mandate.
If I had to bet, I'd say that the "phony theology" idea derives from the president's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast last earlier this month, where, in the traditional postmillennial mode of mainline Protestantism, he spoke of helping to "bring His kingdom to Earth." What Santorum was clearly doing was playing to the evangelical crowd, not his own Catholic one. When Catholics go to culture war, they portray the other side as Enlightenment secularists, not Christians with a false view of the Bible. The Ohio Christian Alliance is not, as some news reports had it, a collection of Tea Party activists but an evangelical political outfit whose president, Chris Long, once headed the Christian Coalition of Ohio.
In a new poll of Michiagan Republicans, PPP finds Santorum with over 50 percent of evangelicals, as compared to 24 percent for Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, Santorum has 31 percent of Catholics; Romney, 43 percent. When it comes to Republican politics today, Santorum's the evangelical, Romney's the Catholic.