Mitt Romney gave his long-anticipated speech about religion, which he called "Faith in America."
The purported purpose of the address was for the Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor to dispel festering doubts about himself because of his Mormon faith.
Unfortunately, I believe it was a failed performance.
I think that Romney and his team overestimated the extent to which his Mormonism has been what is troubling his candidacy and underestimated the extent to which his credibility has been the real problem.
Despite outspending all the other candidates, the Romney candidacy hasn't ignited.
By contrast, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has maintained his lead in national polls, despite a background of three marriages, estranged children, pictures of himself in drag, open support for gays, open support for abortion, having endorsed a Democratic candidate for governor of New York, and support for gun control.
But Giuliani has not been running as a traditional conservative candidate. Romney has.
What dogs Romney is a sense that he is not being honest about who he is.
In an election such as this, where voters clearly are concerned about honesty and transparency, candidates who do not score well in these areas are paying a price.
In Romney's case, that price reflects his credibility challenge in convincing religious conservatives that his changed positions on abortion and gays are for real.
It's not news that Romney ran two political campaigns, one for the Senate in 1994 and one for Massachusetts governor in 2002, in which he campaigned openly and clearly as pro-Roe v. Wade and pro-abortion rights. Suddenly, in 2004, as a result of some kind of epiphany tied to embryos and stem-cell research, he opposed abortion.
Similarly regarding gay rights, Romney has a paper trail expressing support that strains the credibility of his current stance in support of traditional values and family.
Given persistent doubts about the sincerity of Romney's stands on these two issues, both of central concern to religious conservatives, it is astonishing that he would make a major speech about his views on religion and faith in America and not mention either.
Yes, he clarified, regarding his Mormon faith, that "no authorities of my church" would influence his presidential decisions. But this tells us who he is not. We need to know who he is.
And here Romney left us with platitudes about religion in America with which few of any stripe would disagree.
Despite his assurance that his commitment to religious liberty does not mean that he sees no place for religion in public life, he ducked the hard questions about what this means.
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