Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave his "John Kennedy" speech recently, promising that his Mormonism would not be an issue as President of these United States. At the same time, he talked up faith (generic faith in God, or Christian faith specifically?) as important and crucial. Huh?
Well, Governor, if it is, you have just given everyone the right to question you about it.
In his speech, Romney said:
"Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for President, not a Catholic running for President. Like him, I am an American running for President. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.All very well and good. And then, he said:
"Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin."
"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'Say what? What is he talking about? Isn't this a contradiction? Slate's John Dickerson explains:
"Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?"
Will the pitch work politically? It's a long shot. There are better ways to go after Mike Huckabee: Romney is not going to out-God a Baptist minister. He could do more damage by spending the days on which he'll now be answering for his religion on blasting Huckabee's tax and immigration record. The speech also raises expectations for Romney's performance in Iowa, because it is the biggest dramatic moment he can create to change the political dynamic. By investing in this way, he makes a possible caucus loss to Huckabee all the more dramatic.I decided I didn't like Romney when he got the endorsement from Bob Jones III. If Pope Bubba likes him, count me out. That tells us all we need to know about him, doesn't it?
If Romney skirts specific doctrinal questions, he'll get himself out of talking about "reformed" Egyptian hieroglyphics and explaining his view on the afterlife—but also limit his chance to win over voters who want to know about just those things. Vague is bad for Romney: It can make him look calculating and insincere, which is already the rap against him. That's what tripped him up when he talked about the Bible in the debate. He seemed to be dancing around an issue that evangelicals think should be in his heart. Elites mocked George Bush when he said in a debate that his favorite philosopher was Jesus, but to evangelical voters, the quick answer from Bush's gut showed he was really one of them.
In Iowa, as the New York Times reports, the Wars of Religion continue:
On Monday, Mr. Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, raised the stakes when he began broadcasting an advertisement in Iowa that emphasizes his faith and declares him to be a “Christian leader” — all in capital letters — which some might view as a shot at Mr. Romney.And meanwhile, down in Columbia, Romney is charging Mike Huckabee with being too liberal. (And if that doesn't give you chills, nothing will.)
Chip Saltsman, Mr. Huckabee’s campaign manager, said the campaign had no intention of making any kind of allusion to Mr. Romney’s being a Mormon, saying the idea was simply to introduce Mr. Huckabee to Iowans.
“It’s not like this is a new issue for him,” said Mr. Saltsman, referring to Mr. Huckabee’s faith. “He’s talked about this issue everywhere he goes.”
Mr. Huckabee’s advisers admit privately they are cognizant of how Mr. Romney’s religion can work against him and how Mr. Huckabee’s evangelical roots are to their advantage at least among some voters. They pointed out, however, that all candidates have aspects of their biographies that can be beneficial or not, depending on the audience.
The issue is a delicate one for Mr. Huckabee. He has waffled in recent interviews about whether he considers Mormons to be Christians. The Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination he is a part of, does not consider Mormons to be part of historic Christianity.
Romney Assails Huckabee as "Too Liberal"
By Michael D. Shear, Washington Post
December 18, 2007
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney joined the Republican contest this year by pitching himself as the only true conservative.The Mitt Romney signs are everywhere here in the upstate, but I saw my first Huckabee bumper sticker yesterday.
Now, he finds himself desperately trying to convince people that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee -- a Baptist minister with a staunch pro-life record -- doesn't deserve that label more than he does.
As he began a week-long barnstorming of three early states by plane, Romney assailed Huckabee as a liberal, adding his own voice to television commercials and mailings that his campaign has begun churning out.
Romney told reporters that voters will conclude Huckabee has been "too liberal on immigration," "too liberal on crime" and that he has "too liberal of a spending record and too liberal of a tax record."
On immigration, Romney cited Huckabee's support for a bill that would have granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. On crime, he highlighted the 1,033 pardons and commutations Huckabee granted as governor. And on the economy, he said Huckabee presided over a budget that grew from $6 billion to $16 billion.
"I'm convinced that as people take a close look, that the good, conservative Republicans of South Carolina will be supporting a conservative candidate like myself and they won't be supporting governor Huckabee," Romney said. "But time will tell."
A poll out overnight put Romney ahead slightly in South Carolina after another poll had shown him slipping behind Huckabee here, as well as in Iowa. Romney planned to head back to the Hawkeye State for two days of campaigning starting Wednesday.
Romney unveiled a tough, new ad in Iowa attacking Huckabee on the pardon's issue.
"Romney got tough on drugs like meth. He never pardoned a single criminal," the ad says. "And Mike Huckabee? He granted 1,033 pardons and commutations, including 12 convicted murderers."
Huckabee called the ad "desperate and deplorable."
Romney has 16 days to turn things around. Take out Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Year's day, and that leaves 12 days. Twelve days to regain the leads in Iowa and New Hampshire that he has spent $20 million of his own money to achieve.
On the plane trip, his first during the primary campaign, Romney is squiring a dozen national reporters around South Carolina, and then on to Iowa for two days and then back to New Hampshire for three more days.
It's part of a last-ditch effort to regain momentum in a race that seemed well-in-hand a month ago. But that was before Huckabee knocked Romney off his Iowa pedestal, where he had ruled for months.
Romney aides now say they they don't have to come in first in Iowa. But they acknowledge that coming in second would force them to win outright in New Hampshire four days later despite a flood of negative press that would inevitably develop.
Trouble in paradise?
Listening to: AC/DC - Money Talks