God-o-Meter is relieved that somebody finally said it. Amid all the clamoring by pundits–and some religious conservatives–for Mitt Romney to deliver a “Mormon” speech in the vein of JFK’s 1960 address about his Catholicism, a glaring discrepancy between the two politicians’ challenges has been ignored. The thrust of Kennedy’s speech was that his faith and his church wouldn’t influence his administration; Romney has to prove to the GOP’s conservative Christian base that his faith is a deep influence on his politics–even while avoiding the more eccentric particulars of his religious tradition.
E.J. Dionne lays out the predicament at the heart of Romney’s presidential bid in this morning’s Washington Post:

Recall that Kennedy said his professed religious beliefs would have nothing to do with how he governed. “I believe in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair,” Kennedy said. But the religious conservative movement believes, on principle, that religious faith cannot be a “private affair,” that faith necessarily shapes a politician’s views on public issues.
To win votes from the religious right while pushing the Mormon issue aside, Romney therefore has to say that religion matters a great deal — and also that it doesn’t. Any wonder why this is such a tough matter for him to discuss?

One thing’s clear to God-o-Meter: at the moment, Romney is more or less ignoring the situation. Here’s the single line on his Mormonism from last weekend’s speech at the Values Voter Summit in Washington:

By the way, I imagine that one or two of you may have heard that I’m Mormon. I understand that some people think that they couldn’t support someone of my faith, but I think that’s just because they’ve listened to Harry Reid.

Good for a laugh, but it won’t make the problem go away.


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