Romney's Religion Speech: Pros and Cons

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"We have a lot of states about to vote in rapid succession and voters want to be comfortable with who candidates really are," a senior adviser to Mitt Romney says., "If we waited any longer, folks would be voting and you couldn't give the speech and not have it get caught up in political moment."

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Note that Romney's campaign statement asserts that he decided to deliver the speech "sometime last week" -- i.e, before the latest round of polls.

The pros of giving the speech:

1. it’s a ubiquitous issue, there’s a lot of misinformation about the religion, and there perhaps are some voters who would be comforted by having Romney explain precisely how his faith would inform his decision-making.

2. Perhaps Romney is personally aggrieved by the public and private attacks on his religion and he feels compelled to defend it.

3. The Romney campaign is collecting information about an under-the-radar campaign to directly attack Romney on his religion and wants to pre-empt it

4. Maybe some voters who are inclined to hold Romney’s Mormonism against him will feel guilty when Romney cites the principle of religious tolerance.

5. By laying a marker, Romney makes sure that when reporters write about his religion, they have to cite excerpts from his speech, thereby guaranteeing that Romney’s point of view gets expressed.

6. Romney raises the level of awareness about under-the-radar attacks on his religion and thereby makes it more risky that any campaign caught perpetrating them will be castigated.

The Cons:

1. A large tranche of voters in Iowa will blanche at Romney’s attempt to make them feel guilty about their objections to Mormonism.

2. Christian conservatives do not like to be lectured to; depending on what Romney says, they might feel as if he lecturing to them.

3. Romney’ speech guarantees a week of in-depth, public debate about the specific practices of Mormonism.

4. Romney is now taking ownership of every single practice, of every single historical quirk of his religion.

5. The press will spend the days leading up to the speech speculating that Romney is giving it because he is panicked about losing Iowa.

6. Any under-the-radar efforts by Romney opponents to play up his religion can be abandoned because Romney himself will bring it up.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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