Speculation has been mounting for months now that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney may make a John F. Kennedy-style speech on religion. The goal, of course, would be to directly address concerns about his faith and how it impacts him as a presidential candidate and possible Commmander-in-Chief.
Columnist Bob Novak recently reported that a speech would likely happen after Iowa -- but before the New Hampshire primary. According to my sources, Novak is probably right about the speech, but probably wrong about the timing ...
"It's likely to happen sooner rather than later," one senior Republican aide allied with Romney confides in me.
The reason? There will most likely be only a short period of time -- possibly only a few days -- between the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary. That would leave little time to get a message out, and zero time to do crisis control if a message delivery were botched.
Iowa is likely to announce tonight that they will hold their caucuses on January 3rd. New Hampshire's Primary is likely to take place on January 8th, though it's conceivably possible this could happen as early as December. And because of this tight schedule -- plus the fact that news gets lost during the Holiday season -- it is plausible "the speech" could happen within the next month.
Another option on the table is to wait until just before the South Carolina primary to make the announcement. Conventional wisdom says this is where Romney has the greatest "Mormon problem". But just today, Romney picked up the endorsement of Bob Jones III, as well as the Dean of his fundamentalist Baptist institution, Bob Jones University, so he is making some headway in the state.
Besides, the campaign's sense is that this is a national issue -- not a state-specific issue -- which won't go away on its own. My own personal guess is that, like a defendant on trial, Romney can handle losing. But what he can't handle is the possibility of losing without taking the stand, and testifying on his own behalf.
When it comes to making Romney campaign decisions, I'm told, the candidate makes the final decision. But his advisors are strongly pushing him toward this direction, and it appears his campaign is headed in that direction.
While this is likely to happen soon, it's not likely to happen in the next week or so. So while I'm told The Value Voter's Summit this weekend will not be the site of "the speech," Romney may well begin weaving some of these themes into his prepared remarks.
Stay tuned ...
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