David Axelrod, a top adviser for President Obama's reelection campaign, said Sunday that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's Mormon faith should not be made an issue in the election. He criticized Romney, though, for not repudiating strongly enough proposals to make Obama's relationship to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright an issue.
"Does the reelect committee repudiate the idea that Mormonism should be on the table?" Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "State of the Union," asked Axelrod.
Axelrod responded, "absolutely," and said that has been the campaign's position all along.
The question was in response to the suggestion that, if the Republicans make Obama's prior associations with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright a campaign issue, then Democrats should make Romney's membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church, an issue.
CNN host Roland Martin had made that point earlier in the week and suggested that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' history with regard to race relations could be a campaign issue.
"We have to say that what are the views of the church that Mitt Romney put forth, the views that black people were subsidiary to, and inferior to white people?" Martin asked.
On Thursday, The New York Times uncovered a document from a Republican super PAC detailing a plan to raise issues about the Wright during the campaign. The super PAC, by law, is independent from the Romney campaign and the super PAC had decided against the proposal.
Obama's association with Wright was first raised in the 2008 campaign. A YouTube video of a Wright sermon suggesting that the September 11, 2001 attacks were God's judgment went viral.
"Not God bless America, God damn America," Wright said.
John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, decided not to make Wright an issue in that campaign.
Romney denounced the super PAC plan at a campaign stop in Florida Thursday.
"I want to make it very clear: I repudiate that effort," Romney said. "I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I hope that our campaigns can be respectively about the future and about issues and about vision for America."
Axelrod denounced Romney for not being strong enough in his repudiation.
"We wish that Governor Romney would stand up as strongly and as resolutely, consistently to refute these kinds of things on his side. Instead, he has amplified them in the past and he has put logs on that fire, and that's not leadership," Axelrod said.
After Crowley noted that Romney had repudiated the super PAC proposal, Axelrod argued he only did so, "tepidly and reluctantly."
"In February he actually raised the issue and said he thought it was fair game. The problem is, you have to be consistent in your position and you have to be genuine and firm in your position. You can't be grudging in your position or you send the wrong signals and I think he sent the wrong signal," Axelrod added.
Axelrod was referring to a radio interview with Sean Hannity in February in which Romney said, "I think again that the president takes his philosophical leanings in this regard, not from those who are ardent believers in various faiths but instead from those who would like America to be more secular. And, I'm not sure which is worse, him listening to Rev. Wright or him saying that we must be a less Christian nation."
Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, was interviewed after Axelrod. He defended Romney and criticized the media for spending too much time reporting on the super PAC.
"The reality is, though, that Mitt Romney repudiated this particular issue, and what's amazing about it, to me, like you pointed out, a day and a half spent, and that the media, and that The New York Times would pick up on a proposal to perhaps do something in regard to a particular subject, I mean this thing is so strung out, and to take a day and a half talking about this," Priebus said.