Jasper Smith

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Mitt’s speech

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I think it’s a bad move on Romney’s part. I don’t know who is advising him he should do a speech. It’s obviously a reaction to Huckabee’s rise. Does anybody really think that an evangelical who thinks Mormonism is a satanic cult is going to vote for Romney because of an eloquent speech, especially now that the former’s got a bonafide political playa he can vote for named Mike Huckabee?

I’m not one of those who has been of the opinion that Romney is in such bad shape merely because of Huckabee’s rise. I mean, Mitt still has a month or so to soften up Huckabee with negative ads, and there are a number of issues he could use: Huckabee’s non-hatred of illegal immigrants, for instance, and his failure to embrace torture, and also his preference for not funding government via debt. Romney, with lots of money, with a solid foundation in NH and Michigan, and with a disciplined, on-message campaign, should remain a very formidable candidate as long as he doesn’t badly underperform to expectations in Iowa (and those expectations are now muted, given what the polls are predicting about a Huckabee win). Indeed, I’d say up to now he’s still the favorite to win the nomination, especially with Rudy showing signs of implosion.

But this speech business strikes me as a real overreaction to an issue most people — even a majority of GOP primary voters — don’t really care about. To most Americans, Mormons are nice, large, hardworking, sober Caucasians with beautiful teeth and big families. A bit funny in the underwear department, perhaps, but certainly well-within the American mainstream. Heck, I’d even go so far as to say Mormons strike me in some ways as being quintessentially American.

Mitt better hit this one out of the park. If not, he’s leaving the door wide open for a McCain surge.

UPDATE: I should address the fact that the above post, while making the case that an Establishment Clause speech doesn’t help Romney, doesn’t explain why it hurts him. Basically, I think it’s because an unnecessary talk with lots of media coverage will muddy Romney’s message. Whatever themes he’s running on — mainstream conservatism, competence, immigration, reforming evil liberal Massachusetts, the Winter Olympics, whatever — will at least temporarily be drowned out by a discussion of his religion. And, while Romney’s Mormonism likely doesn’t hurt him with most GOP voters, I doubt it helps him with very many outside of a 500-mile radius of Salt Lake City. Staying on message seems to me like it’s been a fairly successful strategy for the Mittbot. Why mess with what’s working? Bad move. Or at least a risky move. As I noted above, Mitt had better “hit one out of the park.” I suppose it’s possible that, should he deliver a truly superb speech, the reaction and positive publicity might actually help him.  We shall see. It’s definitely not something I’d advise him to do.

Written by Jasper

December 4, 2007 at 6:00 pm