Monday, October 8, 2007

Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?,,2185733,00.html

Americans are almost as uncertain about the beliefs and rituals of Mormonism as they are about Islam, according to a survey last month by the Pew Centre for the People and the Press, an independent Washington thinktank. What they do know of Mormonism may not help Mr Romney's chances.

Overall, more than a quarter of Americans hold negative views of Mormons, associating the community with cults and polygamy, despite the practice being prohibited a century ago. More than half of white evangelical churchgoers, the community that is a mainstay of the Republican party, do not believe Mormons are Christian. However, nearly three-quarters believe that Mormons have strong families.


Mr Romney has been working hard to win over evangelicals on "family issues", such as opposition to abortion rights and same sex marriage.

The Romney campaign is clearly hoping that his squeaky clean image, and his constant appeals to the importance of "family" - Republican codeword for opposing abortion, cutting welfare for single mothers, and banning same-sex marriage - will overcome doubts about his religion among evangelical voters.


But it's a tricky conversion for Mr Romney who as a candidate for a failed Senate race in 1994 and for the governorship in 2002 cast himself as a moderate on social issues, supporting legal abortion, gay rights and gun control.


[Those] aren't the values Mr Romney wants to advertise just now.

Ah, the great Mormon question. There is no doubt a bit of a stigma there. I think that really, that whole issue boils down to image control. Romney's campaign, if I may be frank, appears to rely heavily on his image--his physical photogeneity, his image as a "strong" (read: masculine, cocksure, posturing) on foreign policy, "strong" on family values, that sort of thing. No different from any other candidate, but his image comes off as particularly heavily controlled. The last thing Romney wants is for the people most likely to support him, Conservative Christians, to get hung up on the fact that he is Mormon. So naturally, he makes every effort to divert attention from that issue, lest he pull a John Kerry--that is, allow others to define him before he can define himself.

Of course, rather than meticulously shaping his public image with petty appeals to Conservative Christians, he could, God forbid, answer questions directly and honestly...

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