The Romney Speech: My Take

by Jonah Goldberg

I thought it was a very good speech too. I agree with Ramesh that the failure to mention agnostics and atheists was an oversight, but I think it’s more significant than Mona’s point about leaving out Hindus suggests. The thrust of the speech was that all believers are good, all believers are Americans. That’s a nice sentiment and its message of inclusion would encompass Hindus. But would it encompass non-believers? I’m sure Romney himself would say it would if asked. But he didn’t say it in the speech.

Anyway, I think the real problem with the speech is that it steals a base. He says:

“Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president. Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”

Me: I agree with that. But, here’s a problem. The question right now is not whether America should elect him president. It’s whether the Republican Party should nominate him as its candidate for President.

It’s a slightly different question of whether a party should be able to take account of someone’s religion. Personally, I don’t think it should matter much if at all. But I’m not prepared to say it’s illegitimate for party members to consider. Surely a Christian Democrat Party could legitimately discuss whether a Jew or a Hindu should lead its party without automatically trafficking in bigotry. The GOP is not a Christian Democrat Party (“Not if Huckabee has anything to say about it!” some might say), but I think the point is still legitimate. Moreover, the speech didn’t address the concerns of the actual voters he’s trying to win over. That might be because they cannot be satisfactorily addressed.

In short it would have been a great speech had he already won the nomination. But there wasn’t a whole lot in there about why he should get the nomination in the first place. It still might succeed of course, simply by showing Romney in such a favorable light. But I still think he needs to sell evangelicals willing to overlook his Mormonism (but are still concerned by it) why they should vote for him over the much easier pick of Huckabee. And for that he needs to talk about electability, taxes etc. He didn’t mention those things today, and he won’t have another venue like that again before the voting starts.

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