While everyone -- at least most -- think Gov. Romney "shouldn't" have to give a speech justifying his personal faith, "shouldn't" isn't an operable concept in politics. To steal and mangle a military phrase, you campaign with the electorate you're given -- not the one you wish you had. That is to say, if you want to be president you have convince the voters in front of you -- with all their beliefs, needs, values and prejudices. Warts and all.
Voters don’t have to give a reason for their vote. They don’t have to blog their beliefs. They don’t have to issue endorsements or issue rapid response press releases when someone questions their criteria for choosing a candidate to vote for.
Most simply wait until Election Day, close the curtain behind them and vote in private.
The speech seems like a straight up political business decision to me. The Mormon issue has always been there. It hasn't been under the radar. Every news article mentions it. Every book about Romney mentions it. Every article about Romney on Townhall is followed by a debate over his religion or his change-of-mind on gay marriage and abortion. Even our own Hugh Hewitt titled his book with the rhetorical question: A Mormon in the White House? It's the elephant in the room.
The question of whether anyone should have to give such a "faith speech" is irrelevant -- disappointing but irrelevant -- and the Romney campaign realizes that. They've seen the polling results over the months that show some voters are uncomfortable with -- or ignorant of -- the LDS Church. During the summer, a couple of polls showed anywhere between 30 and 40 percent of voters were uncomfortable with voting for a Mormon. Recent polling didn’t show much improvement.
Back when the push-polling controversy broke last month, a lot of folks speculated that rather than being a push-poll with anti-Romney intentions, it could actually have been a pro-Romney group trying to see if Mitt Romney had made any headway against the unfavorable polling data.
The Romney campaign has simply evaluated the landscape and decided that their strategy on the "Mormon issue" hasn't worked so far -- like it or not.
And so, a month before Iowa, Mitt Romney will stand up and make THE speech.
As his campaign puts it:
“This speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor’s own faith would inform his Presidency if he were elected.
“Governor Romney understands that faith is an important issue to many Americans, and he personally feels this moment is the right moment for him to share his views with the nation.”
While the media is discussing the upcoming as the “Mormon speech,” it’s certainly not the first time the issue has been addressed during one of Mitt Romney’s speeches. Perhaps the Romney campaign may have also decided that THE speech was necessary because the brief – and sometimes cloaked in humor – mentions of his faith weren’t working.
This from Romney’s speech to the FRC Values Voter summit:
"I will defend America's religious heritage. I am convinced that a family with faith, a family with a pastor or other adult who cares about every child, has a distinct advantage in guiding children to successful adulthood.
"I will make sure my Attorney General defends the free exercise of religion.
"The effort to establish an anti-religion in America, the anti-religion of secularism, has got to come to an end. We are a nation under God, and we do place our trust in Him.
"By the way – a few of you may have heard that I'm a Mormon. I understand that some people think they couldn't support someone of my faith. That may be because they've listened to Harry Reid.
"Actually, I'm pleased that so many people of so many faiths have come to endorse my candidacy and my message. My campaign is about changing Washington to strengthen America: I want to build a stronger military, a stronger economy, and stronger families. I call these the three legs of the Republican stool. These three unite the coalition of conservatives that Ronald Reagan championed – defense conservatives, economic conservatives, and social conservatives.
"We won't win the White House with only two out of three or one out of three. Republicans win the White House by motivating all three parts of our coalition to carry us to victory. We're not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton.