Personally he’d like to, but for now he won’t.
That’s what Mitt Romney is telling supporters about whether he will give a speech explaining his Mormon faith. Pundits and others have been advising the former Massachusetts governor for days that the best way to tackle concerns about his religion—many conservative Christians consider Mormonism a cult—is to face them squarely in the vein of JFK’s 1960 speech about his Catholicism. Here, according to the AP, is what Romney told a campaign gathering in New Hampshire over the weekend:

“I’m happy to answer any questions people have about my faith and do so pretty regularly,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “Is there going to be a special speech? Perhaps, at some point. I sort of like the idea myself. The political advisers tell me no, no, no—it’s not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone.”

To God-o-Meter, it sounds as if the question is still open. But in describing his dilemma, did Romney reveal too much about his political strategy? Jay Cost, in his Horse Race blog, thinks so, and he makes a good argument. :

At this point—Romney seems to be doing well with evangelicals in certain regards. He has picked up some endorsements from the religious right. He also seems to be getting some traction in South Carolina—which is the first real test of his strength among Christian conservatives… So—there may be no need to give the speech…
[But] why tell people he’s not giving the speech because his political advisers think it’s a bad idea? I don’t know—and I think that was a mistake. This comment made him seem far too calculating. Again—it is all a matter of appearances. We know what campaigns are really about. We know that they are rational, utility-maximizing organizations whose sole purpose is to get to half-plus-one. However, when the calculations are laid bare before us—we are turned off.

Besides that, Cost notes, if Romney does decide to deliver the speech at some point, it will be seen as an indication that his advisers consider his campaign to be in trouble with the Christian right. “This will diminish the effectiveness of the speech,” says Cost. “Generally, it is not a good idea to be this candid about campaign strategy.”
What do you think?


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