The four most recent opinion polls taken in Iowa have former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leading in the contest to become the Republican presidential candidate with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in second place.

Huckabee is a one-time Southern Baptist minister who believes in the biblical version of the creation. Romney follows the teachings of the Book of Mormon which the young Joseph Smith translated through inspiration from the Angel Moroni after Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Him in the sacred grove of trees in Manchester, New York, back in 1820. Perhaps Republicans think that in a world where the United States must deal with Muslim religious odd-balls it takes one to deal with one.

But never fear. While Huckabee is a Book of Genesis man he said during a recent debate between Republican candidates that “if anybody wants to believe that they are descendants of a primate they are certainly welcome to do it.”

The recent increase in support for Huckabee has come largely at the expense of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson.

Mr Giuliani, who was raised a Catholic but, perhaps not surprisingly for a man living with his third wife, and who has been consistently pro-choice on abortion and pro-gay rights (including gay marriage), declines to say whether he practises as a Catholic today. He does, however, proclaim his Christianity.

“I believe in God, I pray to God, pray to Jesus for guidance and for help,” Mr. Giuliani said in a September television interview.

“I have very, very strong views on religion that come about from having wanted to be a priest when I was younger and having studied theology for four years in college, it’s an area that I know really, really well academically.”

That has proved sufficient to obtain the endorsement of one of America’s best-known televangelists, Pat Robertson, the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Mr Robertson believes “the overriding issue before the American people is the defence of our population from the blood lust of Islamic terrorists”. Mr Giuliani’s reputation for fighting terrorism, it appears, is sufficient for at least some on the religious right to overlook his liberal tendencies.

Thompson, better known as a star of the television show Law and Order than as a former Senator from Tennessee, has been criticised by Christian conservatives for not expressing his religious beliefs enough on the campaign trail. In a recent column in USA Today, David Domke, a University of Washington journalism professor, said Thompson has not done better in the polls because “he lacks a religious niche” and “Christian conservatives have not been amused or enthused” by his lack of church attendance.

CNN reported Thompson dismissed those comments, saying “I’m OK with the Lord, and the Lord is OK with me, as far as I can tell.”

“As far as faith is concerned, I have not made any secret as to where I am. I am a Christian,” Thompson told CNN, noting that, while he does not attend church while at home in McLean, Virginia, he does attend church with his mother when he visits in Tennessee.

“I have no apologies to make about my religion or my relationship to Jesus Christ or God.”

The Real Clear Politics website, which provides an excellent summary of the latest presidential election information, suggests that both Thompson and Giuliani will need a little divine intervention if they are to emerge as winners from Iowa.  

Nationally the opinion polls are considerably more favourable for Giuliani than they are in Iowa.  

Peter Fray

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