Mitt Romney’s campaign could receive the boost he needs to regain his lead in Iowa after the much anticipated speech about his Mormon faith drew a broad range of praise from journalists and political commentators Thursday.
In the last week, former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee surpassed Romney in poll numbers for the first-in-the-nation primary state of Iowa, and it’s suspected Romney is now seeking to allay unspoken concerns Mormonism.
According to the latest Des Moines Register poll, released December 2, Romney has lost his once-commanding lead in Iowa and Huckabee now enjoys a five-percentage point lead with 29% to Romney’s 24%.
In his remarks, Romney did not discuss specific doctrines of Mormonism and emphasized themes of “religious liberty.”
From the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Romney promised “If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States,” in a 20-minute long live speech carried by CSPAN-3.
Roger Simon, chief political columnist of the Politico, called Romney’s speech a “stellar performance” that was a “very smart calculation” by his campaign at an “Early State Primary Countdown” event hosted by Politico, ACLU and The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University later that day.
Simon did express concern, however, that CSPAN may be forced to carry similar speeches by other presidential candidates because Romney’s address amounted to a “30-minute advertisement.” In his introduction of Romney, former President George H.W. Bush said other presidential candidates, including Democratic ones, would be invited to speak as well.
Jeanne Cummings, who covers money and lobbying for the Politico, said Romney should be applauded for “the sheer fact that he was able to deliver” the speech. She credited this partially to his campaign’s organizational skills.“Infrastructure matters and people who take that risk for a big gain is especially important,” she said.
In his blog “The Fix” the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza stated “Romney is a gifted politician and he showed it” but took issue with the fact that Romney only said the word “Mormon” once. “If Romney is embracing rather than diminishing his faith, it seems as though he would mention it a time or two more, no?” Cillizza wrote.
Reaction from some MSNBC television personalities was generally positive as well. Newsbusters’ Mark Finklestein listened for reaction from the news stations and blogged that Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough said Romney “hit this thing out of the park,” political analyst and regular contributor Pat Buchanan said “I don’t know how he could have done any better” and that Hardball host Chris Matthews said, “I heard greatness.”