Mitt Romney: Spanking McCain and Challenging Evangelicals

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference held in Nashville over the weekend took a much-publicized “straw poll” of potential presidential contenders. Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, who bussed in many supporters, won the poll, but to the surprise of many, Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts can in second.

Media darling and Republican Brutus of the Senate, John McCain had a poor showing. This so-called “Maverick” (apologies to James Garner) got spanked by the Republican base in this symbolic vote. The Senator—who is a legend only in his own mind—has no chance of winning anything nationally.

As a result of his strong showing, the issue that has again been raised is Romney’s religion. Romney is a member in good standing in the Salt Lake branch of the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Eric Hogue spent much of his program today on this topic.

Hogue’s basic question is will the Evangelical Base of the Republican Party support a candidate that is active in a non-Christian cult? No, he didn’t word his question this way but this is what he was looking to explore with his callers.

Other than to stipulate that I agree that the Mormons are not Christian because they deny the historic tenants of the Christian faith, Hogue asks a question worthy of analysis.

I think that much of Romney’s presidential effort will depend on what candidates are competitive in the early going and also on what baggage can be found during his time as governor of Massachusetts. Abortion and gay marriage will be high profile issues when people look at Romney.

If the traditional Republican Platform on social issues, Romney’s faith and his actions as governor are in agreement then he should be ok. However, if he could have stopped gay marriage from becoming implemented in Massachusetts or has any hypocrisy on the Life issue he will not get the support from the base that he needs to survive the primaries.

There are two practical questions that must be asked about any candidate but especially Romney; first, how would his policies as President compare to Ronald Reagan and George W Bush? Second, what type of people would Romney appoint if he is elected?

I would expect Romney to spend lots of time courting James Dobson and other evangelical leaders to either stay neutral in the primaries or support him because he is in agreement with them on issues like gay marriage, abortion and the Supreme Court justices. If Romney can make a case that he would be like an evangelical on social issues and act as a fiscal conservative then he just might pull this off.