Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Romney on religion

Tomorrow's speech by Mitt Romney on his religious views will be a very significant event in the republican primary (I'd say speech about Romney's "Mormon religious views", but I bet Romney himself will only say the word "Mormon" a few times).

Look for Romney to do this:

Very gently outline Mormon beliefs, stressing their Christian basis and general compatibility with mainstream Protestantism.

Very powerfully suggest how important faith and religion are to his life, stressing things shared by Christians rather than the Mormon items.

Wrap up with suggestions that his views are "just like" the views of mainstream Christian Protestants and Catholics.

Mention Jesus several times and Joseph Smith no more than once.

Many are comparing this to JFK's speech abut his Catholic heritage not being a threat to America, but I think this is probably misguided because times have changed so much in the past 47 American years of elections.

Unless Romney fails miserably with his delivery or gets off point, I think he'll put the religious issues to rest until the general election. Why?

* Mormonism is not a radical religion, rather more of an offshoot of Christianity. Aside from some quirky sect views mainstream Christians won't be as threatened by this as many now suggest.

* Religion is NOT as powerful a force for Republicans as many have suggested. Although Karl Rove and other brilliant manipulations of the religious right wing helped in elections it is not at all clear they changed outcomes, because religious right wing folks are very likely to vote conservative Republican and very likely to vote. Will they vote for Romney? I think yes, because they'll see that he's the best shot against Hilary Clinton. In this sense Huckabee may post a challenge for Romney as he'll draw the votes that Romney would have won over Giuliani.

A master stroke for Romney would pull Huckabee into his campaign immediately as his prospective VP. Very unusual move, but I Huckabee simply does not have the cash to win and this combination would allay many concerns about Romney's religion and sincerity. Also, Huckabee with cash would have a good shot at winning the whole thing. Huckabee plus Romney would be unbeatable in Republican Primary and then could play the national election as a "moderate to liberal Romney" with a "true conservative Huckabee" unifying theme. This would challenge Clinton to also pick a very powerful VP - probably Obama - and we'd see one of the most ideologically contrasted elections in some time.

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