If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan defeat President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in November, it will be the first time Americans elect a presidential ticket that does not include a Protestant.
Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Ryan is a lifelong Catholic. On the Democratic side, Biden is also a Catholic, making Obama the only Protestant of the four candidates.
The decision not to include a member of a major Protestant denomination suggests that national attitudes about the role of faith in politics have evolved in recent decades. Former President John F. Kennedy's rise to the White House in 1961 sparked anti-Catholic outrage at the time, and he chose Lyndon Johnson as his running mate, a member of the Disciples of Christ.
"I don't think it would be particularly important in this election," Thomas S. Kidd, a senior fellow at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion, told the Daily Caller's Matt K. Lewis in an interview earlier this month. "Evangelicals would be heartened by the selection of a conservative Catholic running mate by Romney, just as many of them supported Rick Santorum in the primaries," he said.
As Kidd predicted, Romney's selection Saturday of Ryan was met with praise from conservative Christian leaders.
"He is a person of devout Christian faith who has a 100 percent pro-life and pro-family voting record in his 14 years in Congress," said Ralph Reed of the the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "He will excite and energize social conservatives, who will play a critical role in the outcome of the elections."
Ryan, who as chairman of the House Budget Committee spearheaded a Republican effort to overhaul Medicare, has sparred with members of his church over public policy.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter in April responding to Ryan's budget proposal--the letter argued that the conservative blueprint does not adhere to Catholic doctrine regarding care for the poor.
"The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria," the bishops wrote.
Ryan defended his plan, arguing that his proposals do match the callings of his faith.
"Of course there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this," Ryan said in response. "The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it. ... What I have to say about the social doctrine of the church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to the problems of the day."