The Morning Line: Misconceptions About Obama’s Faith on the Rise

BY David Chalian  August 19, 2010 at 8:15 AM EDT

It’s quite easy to imagine President Obama itching to get up to Martha’s Vineyard with his family Thursday afternoon and kick back for 10 days. He’s got a relentless unemployment rate to battle, an upcoming fall campaign season in which his party is likely to suffer significant losses, and an American public that would like to see the same troop departure images beaming back from Iraq soon take place in Afghanistan.

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Add all of that to the latest Pew Research Center survey that shows 18 percent of Americans wrongly believe President Obama is a Muslim. That’s up from 11 percent in March 2009 shortly after his inauguration.

Andy Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center: “Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama’s religion is. The survey was completed in early August, before Obama’s recent comments about the proposed construction of a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times writes, “The findings suggest that, nearly two years into Mr. Obama’s presidency, the White House is struggling with the perception of ‘otherness’ that Candidate Obama sought so hard to overcome — in part because of an aggressive misinformation campaign by critics and in part, some Democratic allies say, because Mr. Obama is doing a poor job of communicating who he is and what he believes.”

President Obama’s faith adviser, Joshua DuBois, tells the Washington Post, “While the president has been diligent and personally committed to his own Christian faith, there’s certainly folks who are intent on spreading falsehoods about the president and his values and beliefs.”

ROLLING OUT OF IRAQ

Dramatic images have been flashing across TV screens of the final brigade of American combat troops driving out of Iraq and into Kuwait, bringing an end to official combat operations seven-and-a-half years after the Iraq war began.

The debate surrounding the war in Iraq helped define four successive election cycles from 2002 to 2008, but it has receded to the back pages of most newspapers in the last couple of years as violence against U.S. forces significantly diminished.

The results of each of those elections are the most accurate depiction of how American popular support shifted over the course of the war.

Be sure to check out the coverage by the NewsHour’s Margaret Warner, who is in Iraq now reporting on what the combat troops are leaving behind.

The New York Times explores the civilian effort that is now responsible for American success in Iraq.

And the Washington Post looks at the elation the departing combat troops expressed as they crossed the border out of Iraq.

RISING REPUBLICAN STAR

Keep your eye on New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie as he continues to successfully win support for his brand of conservatism in a Blue State.

Earlier this week he opted out of the Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin approach to the Ground Zero mosque controversy and got tons of attention for his stance.

Thursday he wakes up to find a majority supports his job performance in the Garden State. Fifty-one percent of New Jerseyans polled in the latest Quinnipiac University survey approve of the job Gov. Christie is doing, with only 36 percent opposed. He gets overwhelming support from Republicans and independents. And even one-quarter of Democrats give Christie a thumbs up.

Conservative columnist George Will was clearly a fan early in Christie’s tenure, but you can probably expect a lot more in the months ahead if the governor continues his unique and apparently appealing style.

Christie may end up as one of the more coveted endorsements as the GOP presidential nomination season gets underway in earnest in January.