Since he first began his campaign, we political junkies have wondered if Mitt Romney would address the Mormon issue directly. As mentioned earlier, today his campaign told Time magazine he has decided to deliver a speech called “Faith in America” this coming Thursday in Texas that will touch on “how the governor’s own faith would inform his Presidency if he were elected.”
The decision (and even the Texas venue) carries hints of John Kennedy’s address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in the 1960 election, when he sought to assuage concerns about his Catholicism. It’s worth noting, though, that Kennedy’s speech was very much a general election move (it was delivered in September, less than two months before the election), and its purpose was roughly the opposite of that which Romney is seeking. Kennedy’s speech was a case for a strict separation of church and state–he promised essentially to keep his religion out of his politics entirely. Romney seems to have a more complicated challenge: he needs to persuade people who believe a man’s religious convictions do and should make a difference in the sort of leadership he offers that his convictions are like their convictions.
Among other things, the decision to do this suggests the Romney team is finding what a couple of other Republican campaigns have hinted at about the fine details of their Iowa polling: that Romney’s slip in Iowa, and Huckabee’s rise, has to do with an implicit but very real unease about his Mormonism among evangelical protestants who might otherwise be inclined to support him.
Should be interesting.