romney12.jpgSo there’s a public rift between the Romney campaign and Focus on the Family Action over a comment in Focus’s recent video voter guide that the Mormon Mitt Romney has acknowledged he’s not a Christian, right?
Actually, according to God-o-Meter’s reporting, that’s wrong. Sure, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told TIME’s Swampland on Saturday that “The governor has not made that acknowledgment. He has said that his belief is not the same as others. But there is no doubt that Jesus Christ is at the center of the LDS church’s worship.”
But check out the second Fehrnstrom quote:

“Now some people define ‘Christianity’ differently,” Fehrnstrom continued. “Some people believe that ‘Christianity’ is a group of evangelical churches. Others believe that ‘Christianity’ is any church that follows the teaching of Jesus Christ, and that is what the LDS church believes.” I asked Fehrnstrom if that was also what Romney believed. He said yes.

Rather than exposing a rift between Romney and Focus, however, this line from the Romney camp allows both parties to stand their ground. Though Romney considers himself a Christian, a top Romney advisor tells God-o-Meter, the campaign is perfectly happy for others to draw the opposite conclusion, as Focus on the Family Action has. “Different audiences hear different messages that are unique to them, and that’s why that speech was so powerful and effective,” said the advisor, referring to Romney’s “Faith in America” speech in Dallas last month, which Focus on the Family Action public policy chief Tom Minnery cited as the basis for his interpretation of Romney not thinking himself a Christian. Here’s what Romney said in the speech:

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history.

Now, the Romney campaign says it’s happy for the speech to be a Rorschach test for evangelicals and others. “At a sporting event, a lot of people watch the same play but see it differently,” says the Romney advisor. The advisor says Romney won’t request that Focus alter or remove its video. A Focus spokesperson says the video will stay up and that the issue is already behind it: “We’ve finished our analysis of the primaries and caucuses that have already occurred. Like the candidates, our attention is now on the Florida primary.”
This arrangement allows both parties to stand their ground and, in God-o-Meter’s eyes, winds up strengthening the Focus-Romney alliance. Romney can continue to benefit from Focus’s tacit support. Focus can stand by its own take on Romney’s faith and continue supporting the candidate it likes best. Politically, it sounds brilliant. It’s also somewhat dishonest. And if the story has legs, will the back-and-forth reignite evangelical doubts about Romney?


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