[Politics/Religion] He's calling his Thursday speech "Faith in America," which already has me turned off on any notion that Mitt Romney will seriously and finally address his Mormonism as it relates to his potentially running the country.
First of all, there is simply no need to address faith in general. It's his faith and ability to govern as a Mormon that huge blocs of Christian voters in the U.S. are questioning. So if Romney has a mind to blithely coast along, sing-songing about what faith and belief in God tend to do for people in general, the speech will be a no-sale. No one will buy it.
The basics of the Mitt-as-Mormon debate will not be provided Thursday night, and so the questions about his religion will continue. The vast majority of voters don't have a clue about what Mormons believe. Even so, they see the religion as a cult, and no amount of 'splaining and diagramming and professing one's testimony at College Station, Texas is going to change that perception.
I lived in Dallas for six years back in the '90s. I traveled all over the state with my job at the time, frequently landing right in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I couldn't count the number of times I was met by a complete stranger asking me "Did I know Jesus?" and "Have you been saved?" and "Is Jesus your personal savior?"
If I ever told any one of them I was Mormon (though of the infamous "Jack" variety, I still had all the fundamental background and trappings of the faith to be able to describe--and pretty respectfully and accurately--what Mormons believe), the first thing out of their mouths would be the "Mormons aren't Christian" statement. And what do you say to that? Oh, yes they are. And then what? I don't beat my wife, either? It's a no-win.
What people want to know about Romney, and by extension, Mormons, are the tidbits he would never in a million years discuss publicly. People who suspect Mormons as cultists and crazy-secretive want to know about all of the basics of the faith that set it apart as weird and other-worldly: temple rituals, baptism for the dead, personal revelation and prophecy, polygamy in the afterlife, and just what the heck is your view of Jesus, anyway?
And those are all matters Romney and other devout Mormons view as sacred and will only address superficially at best. So voters who want more will not get it. And after Thursday, Romney will say he's given all he's willing to give on the topic.
One final thought: If Romney is slipping to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the weeks leading up to the Iowa Caucuses, it's more about his flip-flopping on social issues and his hard-line approach to illegal immigration than anything else. Midwestern voters are some of the most socially and politically engaged in the country (I also lived in Minneapolis for five years, and got to know neighboring Iowa pretty well, too). They are known to be open-minded and to give most people a fair shake.
If Romney is having trouble in Iowa, he really ought to look at his compassion factor and his political mettle first. The issue is about his truth-telling ability and his humanity. Go there first, Mitt.
These stories on the "Faith in America" speech might be of interest. First, from a blogger-reporter who has no dog in the hunt (which is to say, he's a non-Mormon from outside Utah) and here and here.
And final, final thought: Mitt Romney is no JFK.
Anyone out there feel like weighing in? (Holly Mullen)