Friday, April 28, 2006

RomneyWatch: Will Mitt Face a Religious Test?

There is an interesting discussion/comment over at The American Scene. Various pundits are discussing whether Mitt Romney's religion (a religion he has in common with everyone here at The Wasatch Front, hence our diligent attention) will hurt him in a national election.

One key part of the Republican party's base are evangelist Christians and Baptists, some groups of which are particularly annoyed by Mormons. There is a large body of work speculating that these people would rather see a Democrat win than work to help a elect a Mormon.

I'm not so sure. When it comes down to political goals, Mormons, Baptists, and evangelicals agree on a lot more than they disagree. They are on the same side of the political aisle for a reason.

Ultimately, this comes down to Romney himself, and he's already chipping away at some of those preconceptions with good faith and humor.

The Corner:
K Lo: That Slate piece by Adam Reilly criticizes a joke that Romney likes to use, and which I've heard him say a couple of times, in order to defuse the skepticism some people have about Mormons:
I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman … and a woman … and a woman.
Reilly admits that the joke is funny (which it is, and Romney's well-practiced delivery of it is perfect) but says it merely points out the Mormons are, well, different from other kinds of Christians.

My own sense is that the joke actually helps him. Whenever I discuss Romney with a friend, the Mormonism question comes up--is he electable? I always say that I don't know, but that Romney tells this really funny joke as a way to build bonds and defuse skepticism, which I then repeat. It always gets a laugh, often followed by some positive comment about Romney's personability. At some point, everyone will have heard this joke and Romney will have to come up with a new one. But for now it works, its self-deprecation makes him likeable, and it subtly reminds listeners that Romney has fought for traditional values as hard as any conservative in the country.
Posted at
09:41 AM
This particular aspect will depend far more on Romney's personality and how he handles it - and I think his combination of good humor, honesty, and hard work can win most of his religious critics over. There will be a few holdouts - but then, they've been out there in left field for a while anyway.

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