- (Photo: REUTERS/Joe Skipper)
For the first time in the nation's political history, the Republican ticket will be absent a Protestant as either the presidential or vice presidential candidate. Mitt Romney is Mormon and Paul Ryan is Catholic.
Yet the Protestant, even evangelical heavy Iowa and Nebraska delegates who are filling the convention hall in downtown Tampa seemed unfazed by this historical fact. What they deemed more important was that both men were committed husbands and fathers and were men of deep faith.
It's all a sign the times are a'changing, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told KerneyHub.com. "I think it reflects who we are as Americans. We are constantly changing. We are always striving to get better."
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad agreed and said it's more important to look at the commitment to their faith. "I do think people care about faith, and we have candidates who have a deep faith," said Branstad.
Some historians argue that the 1860 ticket was absent a Protestant candidate but that was only because Abraham Lincoln – who held Christian beliefs – was not a member of a specific church. His vice presidential running mate, Sen. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, was a Unitarian.
For the most part, Protestants have dominated both parties. President John F. Kennedy is the only Catholic to be elected to the nation's highest office.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is now with Fox News but also had a strong showing in the 2008 presidential primary, told those gathered in Tampa that only one of the four men on a major party ticket were evangelical, referring to President Obama. However, some leading evangelicals dispute that observation because the United Church of Christ is one of the more liberal denominations.
Romney's Mormon religion was criticized by some of his GOP opponents in the primary. However, the biggest uproar came when Baptist minister Dr. Robert Jeffress called Mormonism a "cult." He later said he would probably vote for Romney if he were up against President Obama.
Historians say that 186 men and two women have stood for election as president and vice president. Approximately 85 percent have been members of a mainstream Protestant church, with about 40 percent being either Episcopalian or Presbyterian. Twenty of the 188 candidates claimed no official religious denomination.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who ran as the vice presidential nominee with Al Gore in 2000, is Jewish. Former Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988, was Greek Orthodox.