The Common Good

MORE ON THE ROMNEY RELIGION SPEECH

Source: MSNBC
Date: December 4, 2007
A collective sigh of relief emanated through the Romney campaign on the ground in New Hampshire yesterday now that the cat’s out of the bag.

Staffers at all levels buzzed about Thursday’s religion speech at several events, making clear they too have been wondering, "Will he or won’t he," and have been waiting anxiously for a while. Lots of "this is its" and "now’s the times" were thrown around rather excitedly yesterday.

Romney, himself, acknowledged impatience from the press when he took the mic at press conference after the day’s first public event, which was centered on the economy. He joked at the beginning, "Let’s keep the questions on the economy to a minimum, because I know there are a couple of folks who want to ask about religion."

There was some natural frustration from inside the camp that the press was fixated on the speech rather than the economy, despite that he moved the ball forward ever so slightly on his economic agenda. (He'll be talking economics again, however, on a jam-packed day in New Hampshire today.) Apart from two other questions -- one that dealt with the new intelligence report out that morning -- the much larger-than-usual scrum stuck to the speech and his Mormonism. But two speech and religion questions down, one person asked why his preceding economic-focused speech didn’t address global warming, causing more than a few pairs of eyes to dart around the room, confused.

The elephant in the room, even in the Granite State, was none other than Huckabee. "I think a person who is running for president, or who is going to be president, is someone who wants particularly in times of great need to call on the prayers of all the people in America and not define him or herself based upon a particular brand of faith," Romney said. In a recent Huckabee ad, "Christian Leader" flashes boldly across the screen. Romney, however, prefaced some of that with, "I’m certainly not a spokesman for my faith; don’t anticipate ever doing that."

And so those who’ve labeled his long-awaited address, "The Mormon Speech," may well be wrong. He continued to drive the point that he intends to talk about the role of religion in society and its importance to the American culture, a thread not entirely unlike that which Obama employed in his star-spangled religion-in-politics speech before the Call to Renewal Sojourners conference in late June 2006.

But despite all of the JFK comparisons flitting around, Romney explained, "I’m not going to be giving a JFK speech. He gave the definitive speech, if you will, on discrimination relating to a political campaign, and what he said makes sense to me."

Romney later cited a master’s thesis about the 20 reasons his father was successful in the 1968 race and pointed out that not one of those was his faith. Jumping forward four decades, he said, "I don’t know that even at this stage, my faith is a significant factor in my race. I just don’t think in the final analysis it will be the deciding factor."