Mitt Romney’s New White House Bid, If Any, Will Be Heavy on His Mormon Faith January 19, 2015

Mitt Romney’s New White House Bid, If Any, Will Be Heavy on His Mormon Faith

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is either channeling his inner Latter-Day-Saint or listening to political advisers who are betting that a heavier dose of Mormonism will wow the American electorate in 2016.

In a speech … Friday night, Mitt Romney reminded the world that he’s a Mormon — and made clear that it would be a key part of his presidential campaign if he does decide to run for a third time.

What an excellent strategy to overcome the accusation that Romney, as a politician on the national stage, is fatally tone-deaf. </sarcasm>

Romney put his faith, something he rarely spoke about or demonstrated on the 2012 or 2008 campaign trail, front and center while addressing Republican National Committee members aboard the USS Midway in San Diego, saying that those closest to him, including his wife Ann, know him not only as a businessman and politician but as a devoted leader in the Mormon church.

“For over ten years, as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations. And so she’s seen me work with people who are very poor, to get them help and subsistence. She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is,” Romney said.

Ann may, but the rest of the country probably still has somewhat grave doubts. Surely people remember this secretly-taped 2012 video of Romney broad-brushing the poor and disenfranchised.

His remarks were some of his most extensive on his role in the Mormon Church — he previously served as a ward bishop in his Boston community — ever in a political setting. Romney’s advisers shied away from the former Massachusetts governor highlighting his faith because they feared Mormonism would alienate some voters, especially evangelical Christians in key Republican strongholds.

In fact, even during a May 2012 speech at Liberty University, founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell, Romney would only speak in general terms about a “Christian conscience” but would not specifically mention his own religion — even as it has played such a central role in his life.

The flip-flop is “an active decision to use his deep faith as an asset, not a liability,” says ABC News, but it seems like a pretty desperate move considering that there are fewer Mormons (1.7%) than atheists (6-10%) in America, and atheists are practically unelectable at the national level. Of course, Romney is counting on especially the evangelical voting bloc regarding him as a fellow Christian, but that may be wishful thinking. Almost one-third of Americans don’t consider Mormons to be Christians, and a further 17% are unsure about it. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center surveyed the nation’s attitude toward Mormons,

Just 53% of the public expressed a favorable opinion of Mormons. … [O]ne-in-four respondents to the earlier nationwide Pew survey said that they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate for president.

Not that I’m a political sage, but I’ll bet my house that the notion that America wants more Mormonism from its Republican candidate in 2016 will be all but toxic to Romney’s chances.

Should Romney run with a Mormonism-focused approach, we will be saying one thing to him as a nation on November 9 of next year, and it’s not “Hello, Mr. President”; it’s “Nice knowing ya.”

(Image via Shutterstock)

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