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Romney Opens up to Press about His Faith

This past weekend, the Romney campaign made its first attempt to introduce the American people to Mormonism, and through that to start actively defining their candidate in a way that voters might find sympathetic. The New York Times reports:

On Sunday, for the first time since Mr. Romney became a candidate for president, his aides invited members of the news media to accompany him to church services near his lake house in Wolfeboro, N.H., providing the public with a look into one of the most intimate corners of his life and into the rituals of a religion that is frequently misunderstood.

After a year of studiously avoiding all but the most oblique references to Mr. Romney’s faith on the campaign trail, his advisers said they believe it is time for him to publicly embrace it. They reason that his religious devotion, as well as his leadership within the church, convey qualities that voters will warm to — and outweigh any squeamishness among those who are unfamiliar with or suspicious of Mormonism.

Via Meadia has been saying for months that this would be a key challenge for Romney. As we put it in late May:

The central dilemma for the Romney campaign: Romney’s faith is unpopular and that isn’t likely to change in the course of an election cycle. But that faith makes him behave in ways that are popular for the most part: helping neighbors, contributing to his community, standing by his word, making sacrifices for his beliefs. So central is this faith to Romney’s life and character that if you keep faith in the background it’s hard to project a coherent and likable portrait.

Romney can’t talk about his faith; Romney must talk about his faith. If his strategists and advisers can figure this one out, they will deserve the huge fees that they charge.

This small first step seems like smart politics to us.

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  • Jim.

    I suspect that most Americans are not theologically inclined enough to hold against Romney his religion’s failure to successfully parse the first chapter of the Gospel of John.

    The success of this move is going to come down to whether a majority of America has any respect for human dignity and wholesomeness anymore.

  • thibaud

    “Romney can’t talk about his faith; Romney must talk about his faith.”

    If he wants his mate to have even an outside chance at winning, Ryan _can’t_ talk about abortion; Ryan _must_ talk about abortion.

    How does a fixation on Ayn Rand square with extreme Catholic social views on the inviolable “dignity and wholesomeness” of the human zygote?

    Or is Ryan, like his mate, not anti-choice but “multiple choice”?

  • WigWag

    I wonder exactly what it means to “open up to the press about his faith.”

    Does Romney plan to showcase his religion in a manner that strips Mormanism of it’s theological complexity? Does he plan to hide the the doctrines that many more traditional Christians find idiosyncratic at best?

    I don’t disagree with Via Meadia; Romney should be proud of his religious convictions and he should not be shy about piety because obviously he is pious. Americans shouldn’t vote for or against Romney because he is a member of the Church of Later Day Saints and Romney shouldn’t have to defend or even explain any particular tenet of his faith to the press or anyone else.

    On the other hand, if all Romney does is present a market-tested version of Mormonism designed to make it appear indistinguishable from more traditional Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations, isn’t he demonstrating a sense of shame about his beliefs and a sense of apprehension that Americans are too intolerant to vote for a man who believes things that Romney plainly believes.

    Mormons may believe in abstemious behavior when it comes to alcohol and caffeine; they may believe in the importance of charitable works and many Mormons may be “clean-living” and family oriented. But if Romney attempts to reduce his religion to nothing more than the characteristics his Church believes good Mormons should demonstrate isn’t he reducing Mormonism to a mere caricature? In its own way, isn’t that at least a little blasphemous.

    When Kennedy ran for President everyone knew what distinguished Roman Catholic belief from Protestant belief at least in a general sense. If Romney us going to “open up to the press” and the public about his religious convictions shouldn’t he be asked to do it in a manner that is respectful enough of Morminism to at least mention some of the religion’s critical tenets.

    If Professor Mead believes that Romney should be open and proud about his religious convictions, does he also believe that part of Romney’s responsibility is to make sure that non Mormon Americans understand the tenets of the LDS Church at least as well as Kennedy explained Roman Catholicism to Americans?

  • thibaud

    Who could have guessed that Americans would see the day when a US presidential ticket combined a “multiple-choice” Mormon flip-flopper with Swiss bank accounts and a reactionary Catholic who also worships Ayn Rand?

    I pity Romney’s speechwriters now. What a complete mess of a candidacy.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    I can see Romney’s Mormonism looses couple points in Bible Belt states. He is going to win those states anyway.

    In all others states he either going to loose them or it does not matter one way or another.

    His religion was a factor in Repubic primaries, I don’t see how it is going to be a factor in the General.

    Perhaps Axelrod-Obama campaign could inflame religious bigotry in swing states, I’m sure they would love to do that but afraid of blowback.

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