Mitt’s Make or Break Moment

Mitt Romney’s “Mormon Speech” will apparently be given this coming Thursday at Texas A&M University and the George Bush Presidential Library.   This will be a make or break moment for the campaign.   Undoubtedly it will have some sort of effect on the campaign.

The decision to give this speech is undoubtedly due to Mitt believing that they need a shot in the arm and need to try to slow Huckabee’s ascension.   It also is apparent that the campaign does believe that Mormonism is a weight limiting Mitt’s rise, and it needs to be addressed.

Certainly this is a gutsy move.  No other candidate has had or will have such a defining moment that can destroy or complete make a campaign before the first vote is cast.  In a worst case scenario, the speech will come off terrible and give off the perception that Mitt will take orders from Salt Lake City.  This is highly unlikely.

What is likely, is that Mitt gives a great speech that is very clear, however it will fairly ambiguous – not quite embracing Mormonism, while not equating Mormonism with Christianity; he will try to ride the middle of the road.  This is definitely the safest route, but undoubtedly there will large chunks of Christians who will dissatisfied and will look for short sound bites and snippets to take out of context.

At the same time there will be significance criticism from handfuls of Mormons who will think that Mitt did not defend the Church well enough or that he didn’t define the Church as being Christian.

Thus, these are things I am confident will result: 1. There will be no consensus on how Mitt did and if it quelled the Mormon question.   2. This will have zero affect with Christians who have already made up their minds about Mitt and Mormonism.   3. Building off of #2, this will not put to rest the Mormon Question.   4. There will be significant criticisms from a good part of the Mormon community.  5. There will be significant praise from the Mormon community.

So, a positive effect will not be huge.  But is large enough to justify giving the speech.  Mitt doesn’t need 20% of the 25% of those who say they will not vote for a Mormon to change their mind, he doesn’t even need 1% of those to change their mind (at least not yet).  What Mitt needs is for those voters in Iowa who are leaning away from Mitt largely because of his Mormonism, to change their minds.  My wholly unscientific estimation is that about 5-8% of the Iowa voters like Mitt and would otherwise vote for him if not for the whole religion thing, but who still may.  It appears that most of those voters are lining up behind Huckabee, so if Mitt can pull 4% into his camp (about 50-70% of those mentioned) and away from Huck, Mitt can pull out a win in Iowa.

Ultimately, however, this speech can destroy his campaign.  How it plays is all determined by how it plays in the media and on the blogs.  If previous reporting on the campaign is any indication of how things will shake out, Mitt is in for tough ride.  It could be a lose-lose situation.  The media has not given Mitt the benefit of the doubt on anything.  He seems to be the most criticized and attacked of the GOP candidates (at least Giuliani has Fox News to downplay his scandals).   

However this time may be different.  The media likes victims, they like people or groups facing tough odds and opposition.  Thus, there may a bit of sympathy for Mitt and Mormons.  If so the coverage on the MSM may be quite positive and a significant benefit to the campaign.  However, don’t look for the same kind of sympathy on the blogs.   There will be a lot of pro-Mormon vs. anti-Mormon ramblings going on.  There will columnists who will completely trash Mitt and Mormonism and even make stuff up. Likewise there will be columnists who will defend Mitt and Mormonism to illogical levels. 

No matter how it shakes out, this week is going to be abuzz about Mitt Romney; that can’t be a bad thing for the campaign, at least not until Thursday afternoon.

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18 Comments

Filed under Baptist, Bible, Book of Mormon, Candidates, Christian, Christianity, Conservative, Democracy, Democrats, Election 2008, Media, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Mormon, Mormonism, Politics, Religion, Republicans

18 responses to “Mitt’s Make or Break Moment

  1. Pingback: Mitt’s Make or Break Moment

  2. ChuckP

    I’m not sure I understand how a speech can be clear and ambiguous at the same time.

  3. After Mitt delivers the much-anticipated “Faith in America” speech on Thursday, there will be a ton of buzz online and offline for Mitt. The day after this event, Mitt’s supporters are hosting an event that you can check out at http://www.December7thforMitt.com

  4. bethtopaz

    I think that what will be more important than the speech itself, which I’m sure will be good, will be the way Mitt carries himself while giving it.

    Think about it — with all the hype, many people will be anticipating this speech and watching it.

    Mitt will have the stage to himself and he will look very presidential (as he always does) and some people may get their first really good look at Mitt Romney.

    I think it has all the possibility of being very positive for our man, Mitt!

    I trust him with this project. He won’t be on the defensive or caught off guard.

    This will be his moment, done in his own way and on his own terms and I look forward to seeing him SHINE!!

  5. I will be praying for Mitt!

  6. Brad

    Mitt has already shown he’ll answer some of the easier questions regarding Mormonism, but when it gets to some of the tougher questions, some that maybe the casual observer doesn’t know much about or those not directly related to theology but more to practice of established Mormons, he loves to defer to the church itself, saying he’s not an authority on them.

    What a bunch of bull. He’s been around the LDS church long enough to know what goes on and what doesn’t. And people are looking for him to be open and honest, which he tries to appear to be, but in reality just pushes the tough questions to “the Church.” Let’s see if this speech does any different. My guess is it won’t, b/c when it comes to the tough questions, he needs to keep them out of the spotlight, b/c if he were to address them, the focus would be on the answers he gives to those questions, not on his campaign, and he can’t afford that.

    This speech won’t help a bit.

  7. Swint

    Brad,

    You know full well that any candidate discussing the actual doctrines or practices of their Church would be practically committing political suicide.

    Would you expect a Catholic candidate to explain why Cardinals follow such strict protocol in their actions or if he really thinks the communion actually turns into the blood and body of Christ? Of course not. Nor should we expect Mitt Romney to explain the activities of the LDS Church. That is for the leaders of the Church to explain.

    Be realistic.

  8. Brad

    That’s my point, Swint. He won’t say anything substantive, b/c politically, as you say, it would be suicide. That’s the problem. He’s more worried about being elected, than about telling others what he truly believes and being honest.

    If I, as a voter, ask a question, I’m asking it b/c I want to know the candidate’s honest answer, not have him dance around the question. When I don’t get an honest answer, I have to then evaluate why I didn’t get it.

    Am I saying Romney’s any different than any of the other candidates? Not necessarily. I don’t believe any of them are perfectly honest, and will say exactly what they believe, b/c of the “political suicide” factor.

    But wouldn’t it be refreshing if they did? Just once, I’d like to see it. If I were running, I would do it, just to see the reaction. Be totally honest with people, and tell them you are and that you have nothing to hide, about your personal life, your religion, etc…, and see what happens. My guess – some will not like it, some will hate it, some may love it. But I’d at least RESPECT it.

  9. bethtopaz

    I don’t expect Mitt to talk about Mormonism at all.

    I expect him to talk about the broader subject of the role of faith and religion in our country’s politics.

    I expect it to be an optimistic, inspiring speech – encouraging people to rise above their differences and uphold the spirit of our Constitution.

    I’ll be surprised if I’m wrong.

  10. Swint

    Brad,

    You are saying that as if it is unique to Mitt that he has to tread lightly about his Religion. Your premise is flawed. EVERY CANDIDATE will avoid getting into details about their Religion’s practices. Voters (outside of the religious right) don’t want a theocrat in office. So it is not be fake, it is being realistic. Of course he is trying to win an election, they all are.

    My point to you is to stop acting like this is wholly a Mitt trait. All candidates, in all elections, in all time highlight things that help their candidacy and avoid things that hurt them.

    So, while it is less than desirable, it is the reality. It is unfair to criticize Mitt for this type of behavior and not anyone else.

  11. Brad

    Swint,

    I don’t think you’re fully reading my posts. See my previous comment, paragraph 3, and you’ll see that I do indeed reference that Romney’s not alone in his actions. You may want to try and stop being so protective of Romney.

    He does have a little more to hide, however, b/c Mormons are VERY sensitive about the not-so-widely-known practices and rituals and beliefs that the mainstream public doesn’t know about. There really isn’t a good comparison in evangelical Christianity, b/c they don’t really have those types of things that only “full”members know about or practice. THOSE are the items which he gets “hedgy” on, and refers people to the LDS church to answer, even though I (and you) know full well he knows the answer to them.

  12. Swint

    Of course he knows the answers to them, but it is not his responsibilty to be a spokesman for the Church or disseminate official doctrine. If he were still a Stake President, then he would have that responsibility (sort of). No Presidential candidate should be expected to explain why their respective Church does what it does or why the believe like they do. That is the responsibility of the Church.

    Something I think we can take out of your comments that are of long-term campaign interest, is that these queries and challenges on his faith and the practices of Mormonism are not going to go away. Everthing will be brought onto the table. It is all fair game for people to ask such questions, politics is politics. But I am not going to fault Mitt for deferring to the Church to answer questions on doctrines and practices.

  13. Brad

    And that’s fine. But it is one place where I fault him (and any other who won’t answer questions straight). There’s a BIG difference between “I don’t know the answer, so I’m going to have to refer you to someone who does”, and “I do know the answer, but I don’t really want to have to explain it, so I’ll refer you to someone ‘official’ so they can answer it and take the heat off of me.” Difference between night and day.

    Nobody’s asking him to be a “spokesman” for the Church. But people are asking him questions – questions he knows the Mormon answer to – and he is deferring them elsewhere. That is not a straight answer. If he’s not ashamed of the truthful answer, then why not give it? Be different for a change? Give a straightforward answer to a straightforward question. I may not agree with your answer, but I’ll at least respect you for answering. I don’t think I’m alone in that line of thinking, either.

    He will lose the election b/c of his Mormons stances, and his lack of answers to those questions. Watch and see.

  14. Swint

    I completely understand your reasoning and it is reasonable, however I just don’t think is his place to speak for the Church.

    Besides, don’t you at least think he should be pragmatic. I think we can both admit that answering those questions would likely be political suicide. And they are questions and issues that have absolutely no bearing on ability to be President or how he would govern. So why answer them? I wouldn’t if I were in his shoes, and, likely, nor would you.

    So I am not disagreeing with you per se, it would be refreshing to have him (or anyone else) be that transparent, but it would be stupid for him to do so.

  15. Brad

    I completely understand your reasoning and it is reasonable, however I just don’t think is his place to speak for the Church.

    I’m not asking him to speak “for” the Church. I want him to answer the questions posed to him, which I know (and you do too) he knows the answers to. That’s answering questions about HIS beliefs, not speaking “for” the Church.

    Besides, don’t you at least think he should be pragmatic. I think we can both admit that answering those questions would likely be political suicide. And they are questions and issues that have absolutely no bearing on ability to be President or how he would govern. So why answer them? I wouldn’t if I were in his shoes, and, likely, nor would you.

    I have admitted already that many would view it as political suicide. I would view it as refreshing. And YOU may believe that the questions/issues have no bearing on his ability to be President, but there are many who do believe (myself included) that his beliefs will most certainly influence what he does in office. So, as informed voters, we want to know what those beliefs are, and how they will influence him. Just b/c a criteria is not important to YOU as a voter, doesn’t mean it’s not important to other voters. And I disagree – if I were in his shoes (running for President, which I doubt would ever happen), I would most certainly be willing to express my views as I see them, and answer any questions about my faith. To not do so is tantamount to denying my faith, which I don’t believe is right.

    So I am not disagreeing with you per se, it would be refreshing to have him (or anyone else) be that transparent, but it would be stupid for him to do so.

    “Stupid” is a relative term, depending on the viewpoint from which this is approached. From a religious and personal perspective, I wouldn’t view it as “stupid” at all, I would view it as courageous and honest. Politically, maybe it would be, but I think that people would at least respect it, and if he were the first to do it, I’m sure more would follow and be similarly transparent.

  16. Swint

    Fair enough. I can and do accept your premise. I also think it is admirable that you would find it “refreshing” for him to answer the questions. Sadly, very sadly, most voters would not. (or they would, but would still be less likely to vote for him).

  17. Brad

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that by him answering the questions, I’m any more likely to vote for him b/c of those answers. B/c honestly, I already know the answers to the questions he’s asked (you probably do too), that’s why I know he’s hedging. I would just find it refreshing that he wouldn’t be scared about his political future if he did answer them, and that he would think answering the questions asked of him is more important than what the polls reflect.

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