When Mitt Romney ran for the Republican nomination in 2008, many voters got their first look at the former governor through the eyes of radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, an early supporter, who wrote a book entitled A Mormon in the White House? 10 Things Every American Should Know about Mitt Romney. As Romney enters the 2012 race officially today, Hewitt chats with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez — another early 2008 supporter of the governor’s — about the prospects and challenges this time around.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Mitt Romney announces his candidacy today at Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, New Hampshire. Is it bittersweet for you?
HUGH HEWITT: Not at all. I am glad he is running again, and glad that the field is strong and may get stronger still. The greater the obstacles the nominee has to get over, the stronger he or she will be in the fall of 2012.
LOPEZ: The likes of, say, you and me — were we a little too Mitt last time around?
HEWITT: I don’t think pundits should sit on the bench when they have made up their mind. I didn’t think Sen. John McCain would make a good nominee — “great American, lousy senator, terrible Republican” is how I put it then — and so I backed the candidate I thought could win. I’ll do the same this year, and not later than the time I have to vote in the California primary. I remain very impressed with Romney’s capacity for decision-making and his vision of the country, and I am also very impressed with Gov. Tim Pawlenty for the same reasons. Either of these men can beat President Obama in the fall and both would govern from the center of the conservative coalition.
LOPEZ: Is Romney the best man in the field?
HEWITT: There are lots of good men (and soon to be at least one woman) in the field. At this point it seems clear to me that Governor Romney is the most electable, though Governor Pawlenty is very close on that scale.
LOPEZ: Since writing A Mormon in the White House? is there anything you’d take back, anything you’d say or cover differently?
HEWITT: I haven’t reread it, but I don’t think so. I may have underestimated the amount of anti-Mormon bigotry that erupted on the left, but other than that the book stands up very well, especially in its discussion of our Article VI legacy.
LOPEZ: Can you believe the GOP field has gone from one to maybe two Mormons?
HEWITT: The GOP has a deep bench among evangelicals, Mormons, Catholics, and Jews, and I am not surprised by any particular mix of candidates. I don’t think there is much of a bigotry issue in the GOP, though there is a noisy fringe that still exists but is largely understood by everyone to be a fringe. If and when Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan runs for president, there will be a fringe of anti-Catholics as well, but we won’t be paying any attention to them.
LOPEZ: You say you underestimated the anti-Mormon bigotry last time around. Is that a real problem for Romney? For Huntsman?