As an evangelical professor of Bible and theology, I have decided to support Mitt Romney for President (even though he is a Mormon) for two old-fashioned reasons: First, he is the best-qualified candidate, and second, he holds moral and political values consistent with those in the Bible.
Best-qualified: The best predictor of future performance is a person’s past track record. Romney’s record is stellar:
Intellectual ability: He was in the top 5 percent of his class at Harvard Business School and simultaneously in the top 1/3 of his class at Harvard Law School. He is incredibly intelligent.
Governor of Massachusetts: He won the governor’s race as a Republican in Massachusetts and restored financial discipline to the state. He was a successful governor of a liberal state. This also means he has a good shot at winning some New England states away from the Democrats in the general election.
Business success: He was hired by Bain & Company, one of the elite business consulting firms in the country, and was so successful that he became a partner. He then founded Bain Capital and made it a highly successful investment company. He built a personal fortune of around $200,000,000 in the process, an amazing business achievement. He knows how to run businesses, and what makes them profitable. This indicates a deep and also practical understanding of what kind of policies will be helpful or harmful to an economy, and second, an outstanding management ability proven in both state government and in business, which is a good predictor of ability to be an excellent President. By contrast, no Democratic candidate has ever run a business, a state or even a city.
Chairman of Olympic Games: He also rescued the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. When he was brought in to run the Games he turned what was heading to a scandal-ridden financial and PR disaster into a widely-praised success. This involved massive skill in public relations, media management, diplomacy, morale building, and financial administration. This is Romney’s consistent track record: he solves large problems.
Conservative positions: Romney’s positions on social, economic, and international issues are all soundly conservative. On major issues such as protection of the unborn, a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, strong national defense and victory against radical Islamic terrorists, securing our border, a signed pledge of no tax increases, promoting school choice, and appointment of Supreme Court justices who will interpret law, not make new law, Romney holds solidly conservative positions. His positions are the ones the majority of evangelicals have supported in the past.
Some people object that Romney has “flip-flopped” on some of these positions. I think that accusation is exaggerated. He hasn’t flip-flopped back and forth, he has simply become more consistently conservative. I think that’s a good thing in a political and media climate that is more and more liberal. (In fact, Ronald Reagan also changed from signing a liberal abortion law as governor of California to being a consistently pro-life president.) Evangelicals have worked for decades to persuade people of the pro-life position, and Romney has been persuaded, and he is strongly on our side on this issue.
What about his religion? Romney is a Mormon, and I strongly disagree with a significant number of Mormon theological beliefs, which I find to be inconsistent with the Bible and with historic Christian teachings. But many Mormon teachings on ethics and values are similar to those in the Bible, and those teachings support Romney’s conservative political values.
Can evangelicals support a candidate who is politically conservative but not an evangelical Christian? Yes, certainly. In fact, it would demonstrate the falsehood of the liberal accusation that evangelicals are just trying to make this a “Christian nation” and only want evangelical Christians in office. For evangelicals to support a Mormon candidate would be similar to supporting a conservative Jewish candidate—someone we don’t consider a Christian but who comes from a religious tradition that believes in absolute moral values very similar to those that Christians learn from the Bible. Here in Arizona a few years ago I voted for Matt Salmon, a Mormon candidate for governor. He lost, but his policies would have been much more conservative than those of Janet Napolitano, who has now vetoed dozens of pro-life, pro-family bills.
Or have we come to the point where evangelicals will only vote for people they consider Christians? I hope not, for nothing in the Bible says that people have to be born again Christians before they can be governmental authorities who are used greatly by God to advance his purposes. God used Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to raise Joseph to a position of authority over the whole country, so he could save his people from famine (Genesis 41:37-57). God used Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to protect and raise up Daniel and his Jewish friends to positions of high authority over Babylon (Daniel 2:46-49). God used Cyrus, King of Persia, to restore the Jewish exiles to their homeland (Isaiah 45:16; Ezra 1:1-4), and used Darius, King of Persia, to protect the Jewish people as they rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 6:1-12). God used Ahashuerus, King of Persia, to raise up Esther as Queen and to give Mordecai high authority and honor in his kingdom (Esther 6:10-11; 8:1-2, 7-15). In the New Testament age, God used the peace enforced by the secular Roman Empire, the Pax Romana, to enable the early Christians to travel freely and spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean world.
Here in the United States, God used not only Founding Fathers who were strong Christians, but also Deists such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, to build the foundation of our nation. Jefferson even became our third President in 1801, a demonstration of the wisdom of Article 6 of the Constitution, which says, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
The Bible tells us to pray not just for Christians who happen to have government offices, but “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Timothy 2:2). It is not just Christians in government but all governing authorities who are “instituted by God” (Romans 13:1) and whom Paul can call “God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4).
People may object, “But a lot of people won’t vote for Romney because he’s a Mormon.” I suppose there will be some people like that, but there are three current and historical facts that make me think that problem will diminish as the campaign goes on: First, look to Massachusetts, where Romney won the governor’s race in a very liberal state because people saw his competence and common decency and elected him, and his Mormonism didn’t matter to them. Second, consider the situation in Iowa, where there are a lot of evangelicals, and Romney remains the front-runner in the polls. Third, remember Michigan, where Mitt Romney’s father George was a popular governor from 1963 to 1969, even though he was a Mormon.
When people get to know who Romney is, his Mormonism seems not to be a big deal in a political election. The hypothetical question, “Would you vote for a Mormon?” is very different from, “Now that you have gotten to know who Mitt Romney is, would you vote for him?” The more voters get to know him, the more his Mormonism doesn’t matter much.
Ability to win: Romney grew up in Michigan, where his father was governor, and he still has strong name recognition there. This gives him a good chance at winning some Midwest industrial states, a key to the election. And he would make Massachusetts highly competitive, since he was recently governor there. In fact, by winning the governor’s race as a Republican in a solidly Democratic state, he has proven that he can win large numbers of Democratic votes in an election.
In addition, I think Romney would not just tie but win in presidential debates against Hillary Clinton: he’s smarter, more articulate, and more experienced. And the conservative values he stands for still resonate with the majority of Americans. In addition, nearly everyone who has known Romney finds him genuinely likable, which would work to his advantage over Hillary’s abrasive personality in the long months of a campaign.
There are other Republican candidates with conservative positions, but they haven’t generated anywhere near as much support as Romney, probably because more and more voters are deciding that Romney is much better qualified (my point above), and that he is simply the best candidate: articulate, persuasive, intelligent, mature, strong, successful in several fields and a genuine leader.
Therefore it seems to me that supporting Mitt Romney who has a very reasonable chance of winning makes more sense at this point than supporting someone who is not persuading many Republican voters, or speculating about supporting a third-party candidate who can’t win and who would effectively hand Hillary Clinton 2 to 4 Supreme Court appointments and thereby undo 25 years of pro-life work in trying to change the Supreme Court.
The situation as it looks today: Apart from Romney, I don’t think there is any other solidly conservative candidate who can beat Giuliani in the primaries. As for McCain and Thompson, they are not reliably conservative. Among the “second-tier” candidates, there are some good men with solid positions, but they have not generated much support. With the early primary schedule nearly upon us it isn’t reasonable to hope that one of them will suddenly “take off.” There is not enough time now to build sufficient funding and a large enough support structure before January.
So it seems to me that if evangelicals don’t support Romney in a significant way, Giuliani will be the Republican candidate. So then we will have a pro-abortion, pro-gay rights candidate who is on his third marriage and had a messy affair prior to his divorce from his second wife. Then we will lose any high moral ground and the enthusiasm of the evangelical vote (many of whom will just sit it out), and the difference between Giuliani and Clinton will be only one of degrees as he shifts leftward in the general election to appeal to the “middle.” So then if we lose, we lose, and even if we win, we lose on the crucial moral issues of abortion and protection of marriage. Romney is a much better choice. But he needs evangelical support now if he is going to win.