Mitt Romney was a big name around here in Mormon country; he was a man who could do no wrong. Our local evening news followed his campaign closely, and the Mormon crowds cheered with each new foothold that Mitt made toward achieving the presidency.
Members of the Church-Of-The-Latter-Day-Saints, and non-members alike, were wondering what would really happen if our country were suddenly run by a strong member of this religious organization, an organization that is so deeply rooted in church confidentiality, and oriented towards male dominated rights.
At the start of his campaign, Mitt Romney dodged questions about his religion as it related to his plans for the White House. In my opinion, this was the biggest mistake that he could have made with his campaign.
From a Fox News interview on May, 8, 2007: “No. I think there are differences between different faiths in this country. And there will be battles between different religions.” Statements like this Romney quote were widely circulated both in traditional media, and on the internet; they left people uneasy.
While it’s true that Mitt Romney once declared, “I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest” [Dec. 7, 2007, Dallas News] The damage was already done early on in the campaign. Statements like this stoked imaginations, and left obvious questions trailing in the wake. Was this a man of faith claiming that he would happily go against his chosen faith for political reasons?
Romney’s campaign started to fall apart in Iowa, and other strong bible-belt states. In that area of the country, many consider Mormonism as a cult religion. As Romney started losing his position in the poles, the Huckabee campaign stepped in with ads playing on the bible-belt concerns. “Faith doesn’t just influence me,” Huckabee says on camera, “it really defines me.” The ad then hails Huckabee as a “Christian leader.” [Dec. 7, 2007, NRO]
Huckabee may have been pushing things a little by using his claimed faith against Mitt Romney, but the strategy worked. Bible-belt voters were offered a choice beyond Mormonism, and they went for it. The Mitt Romney campaign was doomed from this point forward over their beginning mistakes.
John McCain on the other hand, has a strong military background, and is quietly touting his Baptist faith after his political and military training appropriate towards going to the White House. Huckabee and McCain both have religions that are known, understood, and accepted by most main-stream Americans. Mitt Romney, as a Mormon, had the odds stacked against him.
Romney choice of words to describe questions about his religion shows in the MSNBC Primary Results where Romney came in overall second to John McCain who is running a traditional campaign without religious issues in the forefront. Americans claim that they want a change to current politics, but they may not be ready for a change in how election campaigns are traditionally structured: with a candidate’s choice of religious convictions being an attribute, and not a running issue.