The Corner

Romney’s Religious Speech

Jay Cost:

I am skeptical of the tone that Romney seems to be planning to take. At least as Novak describes it, it appears as though Romney will say in so many words that anti-Mormon voters are religious bigots, and they should just get over it. I think that this line could work with voters who do not have a problem with Romney’s faith – but I can’t see how this will do anything but offend those voters who are skeptical of it. It is essentially a moral accusation. Romney seems to be saying: “Be ashamed of yourselves…and vote for me!”

I think this is misguided. Most obviously, it makes for bad politics. Romney needs to woo these skeptical voters – and a response that accuses them of bias is simply not going to woo them.

What should Romney do instead? I think that he needs to recognize that there is, or at least may be, some validity to the concerns of these voters – and that he should address them in a way that is not reducible to accusations. Now, by this I do not mean that Romney needs to defend his religious beliefs. I also am not making any claims about the validity of Mormon beliefs. What I am saying is that Romney needs to recognize that the feelings of these voters may not be reducible to simple intolerance.

 I suspect something was lost in translation between the Romney camp and Novak, because a speech focused on denouncing anti-Mormon bigotry would pretty obviously be a dumb move.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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