Last night, 14 of the 17 GOP candidates took part in a New Hampshire candidate forum airing on C-SPAN. It illustrates an important point about early campaign events: second-tier candidates can get away with gaffes that would stir a lot of controversy if he or she were in the top tier. John Kasich said that "law-abiding, God-fearing" undocumented immigrants should be able to stay in the country. A literal reading of that statement suggests that atheist immigrants would be out of luck. That's probably not what he meant, and it's unlikely that many people will obsess about it. But if Bush had made such a comment, social media would be lighting up.
Something similar happened four years ago, before Gingrich had his first surge. In a Las Vegas debate, he said: "And I, frankly, would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments, because then I'd wonder, where's your judgment -- how can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don't pray?" Even though he was suggesting a religious test for office, few people paid attention at the time.