Thursday, February 01, 2007

Religion Is The Least Of Mitt Romney's Worries

The presidential candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have brought the issues of gender, race and religion front and center during the early stages of the race for the White House. Most major polling organizations have, and will continue to, poll voters on three specific questions: Is America ready to elect a woman president? Is America ready to elect a black president? Is America ready to elect a Mormon president?

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll delivered daunting news for Clinton and Obama. 60% of American voters believe that Democrats are likely to nominate a white male for president in 2008, and that includes 81% of black voters. Overall, 80% say that the next president is likely to be a white male. In Romney’s case, there have also been polls that are sure to cause concern, such as one recently that showed 37% of the respondents would not vote for a Mormon; only a Muslim had a higher percentage.

While convincing voters that his faith will not affect his ability to govern effectively and independently, which is exactly what John F. Kennedy had to do when questions were raised regarding his Catholicism in 1960, Romney will have to deal with additional charges that will cause comparisons to another Democrat from Massachusetts: John F. Kerry. If Kerry previously held the record of a presidential candidate accused of having the most flip-flops on his record, he may have met his match in Romney, which will doom any chance Romney has of winning the Republican nomination for president.

It’s not simply that Romney will be accused of being a flip-flopper. More importantly, he has changed his positions on issues that are not exactly up for debate within the Republican Party, specifically abortion, gay rights and gun control. Rudy Giuliani will have his own difficulty garnering the Republican nomination being that he’s pro choice, pro gay rights and pro gun control, but at least he can say that he’s always held those positions. Romney has tried to have it both ways, and his previous stances on those critical issues are coming back to haunt him.

“I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country,” Romney said in a 1994 debate when he ran against Senator Ted Kennedy. “I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it.”

In 2002, when he was running for governor against Democrat Shannon O’Brien, Romney responded to the National Abortion Rights Action League's candidate survey by writing, “I respect and will protect a woman's right to choose. This choice is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government's.”

In 1994 and 2002 Romney received the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian political action committee. In the middle of his campaign against Kennedy, Romney wrote the LCR a thank you letter. “I am pleased to have had the opportunity to talk with you and to meet many of you personally during your September meeting,” Romney penned. “I learned a great deal from those discussions and the many thoughtful questions you posed. As a result of our discussions and other interactions with gay and lesbian voters across the state, I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.”

Finally, when it comes to gun control, Romney, when asked what he thought of the Brady Bill, which required waiting periods for handgun purchases, replied, “I don't think [the waiting period] will have a massive effect on crime but I think it will have a positive effect.” Romney also previously supported the federal assault weapons ban.

Today, at the beginning of a long race for the presidency, Romney has changed his tune. On abortion: “I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view.” Responding to a court ruling handed down in 2004, on gay marriage: “Last year the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck a blow against the family, as I'm sure you know. The court forgot that marriage is first and foremost about nurturing and developing children. Its ruling meant that our society is supposed to be indifferent about whether children have a mother and a father.” On guns: “I have a gun of my own. I go hunting myself. I'm a member of the NRA and believe firmly in the right to bear arms.”

All of the prospective presidential candidates have begun the process of pandering to their respective liberal and conservative bases, but none of them will have to do as much stroking as Romney. Conservatives, evangelicals and the NRA could have eventually overlooked questions about Romney’s faith, much like most of the country did Kennedy’s in 1960, but his conflicting stances on the big three issues of abortion, gay rights and gun control are unforgivable. Interestingly, Romney may be sharing the doghouse with John McCain and Rudy Giuliani when all is said and done since those two also have serious skeptics in the GOP regarding the big three issues. Which is why although the names Brownback and Huckabee aren’t making many Republicans jump for joy just yet, it’s a long, long way to November, 2008. Twenty one months is more than enough time for the dark horses to get saddled up.


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10:43 PM  

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