Does Romney’s inexperience account for “The Speech”?
“So, Mitt is going to give that Mormon speech,” writes Jay Cost in a realclearpolitics election 2008 article titled Mitt’s Ham-Handed Campaign
Is this a surprise? Of course not. His position in the Iowa polls explains the decision entirely. He’s trailing Huckabee in Iowa. A few weeks ago he was up by 14% – and he wasn’t going to give the speech. Now that he’s down, the speech is back on.”
This is par for the course for the Romney campaign, in my estimation. His candidacy has been the most transparently strategic this cycle. McCain is up? Go after McCain. McCain is down? Leave McCain alone. Thompson enters the race and seems a threat? Take a cheap shot about Law and Order. Thompson fades? Ignore him. Rudy is up? Go after Rudy. Huckabee is up? Go after Huck. You need to win a Republican primary? Make yourself the most socially conservative candidate in the race. And on and on and on.
If somebody asked me which candidate on the Republican side has won just a single election (in a year that his party did very well nationwide) — I would answer Mitt Romney, even knowing nothing about anybody’s biography. This kind of transparency is, to me, a sign of political inexperience. He’s only won one election, and it shows … etc.
We heartily concur. Only the most naive of ingenues could make a mistake of this magnitude:
Says Romney himself as quoted by David Frum in a David Frum Diary post titled That Dog Won’t Hunt … “There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? 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. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance.”
Frum: To be blunt, Romney is saying:
It is legitimate to ask a candidate, “Is Jesus the son of God?”
But it is illegitimate to ask a candidate, “Is Jesus the brother of Lucifer?”
It is hard for me to see a principled difference between these two questions, and I think on reflection that the audiences to whom Romney is trying to appeal will also fail to see such a difference. Once Romney answered any question about the content of his religious faith, he opened the door to every question about the content of his religious faith. This speech for all its eloquence will not stanch the flow of such questions.
Bad move – and one with very unfair results to a candidate who all must acknowledge is a man who has proven that his mind actually operates in a highly empirical, data-driven, and uncredulous way.
Had he focused instead on simply arguing that presidents need only prove themselves loyal to American values, he would have been on safe ground. Instead, he over-reached, super-adding to his civic appeal an additional appeal to voters who demand faith in Jesus as a requirement in a president. That is an argument that will not work – and a game Mitt Romney cannot win.
We have harped on this same string for weeks. See:
how Romney botched the Mormon-Kennedy-speech issue by setting up impossible expectations, by consistently failing to identify opportunity and seize the initiative, and by allowing others to frame the debate
P.S. Evidence of Romney playing “the game he cannot win” because of the line of inquiry his own speech opened up:
“I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith,” says Romney, as quoted by Kevin McCullough in a townhall.com blog post titled WORST Romney line of THE SPEECH!
McCullough continues: Here is the mega-million problem with the inclusion of this line within the text of the speech… Romney runs the risk of sounding nanny-ish in chiding the voter into what the “should” or “should not” do. Americans vote in this nation for many, many reasons.
Here Romney is attempting to goad evangelicals into feeling guilty for choosing Huckabee because they perhaps feel more comfortable with his decision making process knowing it utilizes a faith system that mirrors their own… There is nothing inherently negative in that rationale.
What Romney should have emphasized instead was that since the core values product of his belief system mirrors the same RESULTS as an evangelical then evangelicals having nothing to fear in choosing to support him.
I would have to also guess that this is one heck of a disengenious line that overreached on a significant level for the Governor (and keep in mind my admiration for Mitt). But would not it be enough to disqualify a person for the office of President – if per se their religion of choice was Wicken, or Satanism? … etc.
Romney as cited by John Podhoretz in a http://www.commentarymagazine.com post titled Romney’s Boilerplate Mistake: There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers — I will be true to them and to my beliefs.
Podhorez comments: That’s entirely fine. But there’s something oddly pointless about this protestation. Who is the audience for this speech, aside from people like me who make their living in part watching them and reading their texts and writing about them? No one thought Romney would say that Mormon elders would play a leading role in his White House counseling him on policy. Anyone inclined to believe such a thing won’t be convinced by Romney’s protestations in any case.
Romney has always had an uphill battle in this election, although you’re not supposed to say it, as it will occasion someone else delivering you a long speech about religious tolerance. As far as minority religions go, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the minority-est. There are, by at least one count, three times as many Jews in the United States. The number of Americans who openly profess to be Christian is around 74 percent; the number of those raised Christian is 84 percent. Americans are without a doubt the most tolerant people on earth, but religion is very important to them, and someone whose fellow believers number 1/55th of the population of the United States is someone who is going to have trouble closing the deal with voters.
For those who don’t know Romney is a Mormon, well, they sure will now … etc.