I’ve always thought that Mitt Romney’s religion could be a strength, rather than the weakness it appears to be.
Firstly, Mormonism is the only truly American religion.
Secondly, confronting the issue might give the Romney campaign the narrative strength it currently lacks, presenting Mitt as a real person, rather than someone created by a committee.
Lots of people have mentioned that Kennedy did just this, famously, when the issue of his religion became a political problem. However, as this short piece in The New Republic makes plain, Romney cannot take the Kennedy amendment on this one. He has founded his campaign on the belief that he can remake “the house that Reagan built”, reforming the Republican coalition based on the Christian right. He cannot come out and say that a man’s religion should play no active role in his politics.
Romney, then, has two choices. 1. Carry on trying to pretend his Mormonism isn’t an issue to American voters. 2. Make a virtue of his difference, and tell people something they don’t want to hear.
Like Adam Nagourney in today’s New York Times, I like to believe that voters value candour. They don’t always want to have their prejudices confirmed. Giuliani and McCain have shown in this campaign and the last that giving it to people straight can work actually make them like you. Moreover, it’s a pretty essential quality in a President.
So why not Romney?