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.
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.