The Corner

A Missed Opportunity for Romney

Like most other conservatives, I was very impressed with Mitt Romney’s performance during Wednesday evening’s presidential debate. He shrewdly went on the offensive and was able to score points on a number of issues including Obamacare, the deficit, and the persistently high unemployment rate. He was also able to work in references to Solyndra and the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.

However, during the course of the debate, Romney never once mentioned the HHS contraception mandate. When asked by moderator Jim Lehrer about his view on the role of government, Romney did state that “we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country.” This was probably a nod to those of us concerned about the issue.

That having been said, a direct criticism of the specifics of the HHS mandate would have been welcome. It is possible that Romney wants to avoid the issue of contraception, fearing that raising this sensitive issue may confuse voters. However, the freewheeling nature of Wednesday night’s debate would have given Romney ample opportunity to adequately explain his position.

Indeed, as Kathryn noted yesterday, the issue of religious freedom polls well. Furthermore, many swing states are rich in Catholic voters. Granted, not all Catholics adhere to Church teachings about contraception. Still, most Catholic voters oppose government mandates that would force prominent Catholic institutions such as Notre Dame and Catholic Charities to violate their faith. Similarly, most Catholics would be upset with an administration whose policies gave the appearance of unfairly singling out Catholics. These are important points to raise during the remaining debates this month.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.


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