James Forsyth

The religion question

The religion question
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Tony Blair recently complained of how in Britain people think of politicians as nuts if they talk about God. But Blair was a lot better off than Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts who is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Tomorrow, Romney is delivering a speech which could be entitled why a Mormon can be president too.

The polls show that Romney’s Mormonism is a serious electoral problem for him with as more than one in four voters saying they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon candidate in some polls. To compound Romney’s problem his main rival in the must-win for him Iowa caucuses is Mick Huckabee a Baptist preacher who is running, perhaps, the most faith-oriented campaign in history. If Romney doesn’t get the speech right, his presidential bid is toast. But if he manages to pull it off, then he’s got a good a chance as anyone of securing the Republican nomination.

Comparisons are being thrown around to John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech explaining why his Catholicism was no threat to the presidency. But JFK’s task was much easier; he was just arguing that he would keep his faith and his public duties separate. As he famously put it,

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote”

Romney can’t say this. He’s actively courted the support of key evangelical preachers in the hope that they will swing their flocks behind him. He’s also supporting the idea that faith should have a greater role in the public square. So, he somehow has to square the circle of arguing for the importance of religion in public life while trying to say that the intricacies of his own faith are not relevant to his presidential bid.

If this wasn’t enough of a problem for Romney, The Boston Globe has just found illegal immigrants working on his lawn for a second time. This wouldn’t be a much of a problem normally as they were working for a contractor not Romney personally but seeing as he has spent the past few months disgracefully demagoguing the immigration issue the press, and his competitors, are going to give him hell for it. 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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