The big news tonight is that Mitt Romney is going to give the long anticipated speech clarifying his understanding of the role of religion in America.

It seems obvious that the Romney’s decision to give it is precipitated by Huckabee’s meteoric rise in the polls, especially in Iowa. The implication, of course, is that evangelicals are not supporting Romney because of his Mormon faith. As Yuval Levin writes,

Among other things, the decision to do this suggests the Romney team is finding what a couple of other Republican campaigns have hinted at about the fine details of their Iowa polling: that Romney’s slip in Iowa, and Huckabee’s rise, has to do with an implicit but very real unease about his Mormonism among evangelical protestants who might otherwise be inclined to support him.

To be perfectly clear, I have maintained in private conversations that Romney’s faith would not be an issue for most evangelicals, and I still think it isn’t. The evangelicals I met and talked to at the now infamous Washington Briefing, where Mike Huckabee began his surge, wanted to vote for Mitt Romney but were underwhelmed by his flat performance, which was more corporate briefing than presidential speech. No one that I talked to mentioned his Mormonism–everyone I talked to was concerned that he is a ‘flip-flopper’ of the John Kerry variety.

As for my own political reasoning, my lack of support for Mitt Romney has nothing to do with his religion. Those who support Mitt Romney clearly think otherwise, but I tend to think (with Patrick Ruffini) he has had a difficult time communicating his strengths in this campaign. I have little confidence that he would be able to win the general election, but am convinced that if Huckabee gets through the primaries, he will win the nomination handily. Ideologically, I am pretty undecided on some key issues (immigration), so I have turned to these other factors to inform my decision.

For this evangelical, then, there’s no reason for Romney to give ‘the speech.’ And my hunch–and hope–is that the same is true for other evangelicals.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

7 Comments

  1. […] Amidst the big news of Mitt Romney’s speech comes the announcement that Charmaine Yoest, Director of Communications for Family Research Council, is taking a leave of absence from her position there to act as Senior Adviser to Mike Huckabee’s campaign. […]

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  2. […] Last night, upon reading that Romney plans to address the role of religion in America, I wrote: Those who support Mitt Romney clearly think otherwise, but I tend to think (with Patrick Ruffini) he has had a difficult time communicating his strengths in this campaign. I have little confidence that he would be able to win the general election, but am convinced that if Huckabee gets through the primaries, he will win the nomination handily. […]

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  3. Romney does strike me as bland. Not that I want a party-boy in the white house (shivers)… but he really doesn’t grab me. His faith is less of an issue to me than his political record. I’m actually a lot more concerned with Huckabee’s “God talk”. It really doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies. It really does seem over the top – and I don’t watch that much tv (much less political tv.) I’m more intrigued by Ron Paul these days.

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  4. Matthew Lee Anderson December 3, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Deb,

    Ack! Not the Paulians!

    I understand the discomfort with Huckabee’s overt religiousity–it’s certainly a level of language that we’ve not seen in our lifetime before (whether that’s the case historically is, in my mind, still an open question).

    Ron Paul’s rise is one of the most interesting aspects of this campaign. That said, I think his position on Iraq (bring them home, now!) immediately disqualifies him for the office of President. Also, he thinks Roe is a bad decision, but is against a Marriage Amendment or HLA.

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  5. Also, he thinks Roe is a bad decision, but is against a Marriage Amendment or HLA.

    I’m not sure what you mean by Roe being a bad decision.

    Marriage Amendment: I have strong libertarian leanings, I doubt I’d be for it either.

    I agree that bringing the troops home now would be a colossal mistake, but I don’t know that that would disqualify him for the office of the Prez.

    If so, than I think that Huck’s view on Creation should disqualify him as well. Not that I’m being snarky or anything… I’m just saying. ;)

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  6. Matthew Lee Anderson December 4, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Deb,

    By ‘bad decision,’ I (and Paul) mean that the judges overstepped the limits of the constitution in their decision.

    Feel free to be snarky. But Huck’s view on creation is hardly a national security issue, so I think it’s in a very different category! :)

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  7. judges overstepped the limits of the constitution in their decision. ah – I see – then I would concur.

    But Huck’s view on creation is hardly a national security issue, so I think it’s in a very different category! Agreed.

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