Thursday, January 04, 2007
JFK's heir ... Mitt Romney?
We all know about the New York Democrat who may try to become the first woman president and the Illinois Democrat who may attempt to become the first African-American president, but what about Massachusetts Republican who's trying to become the first Mormon in the White House? We haven't heard so much about him.

But that's all about to change.

Former Governor Mitt Romney formed his exploratory committee yesterday, the first step in a presidential campaign. Romney's not a household name like the guys leading the pack for the Republican presidential nomination, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

But he's got one big advantage over them: He speaks the language of church folk ... the evangelical Christians who wield enormous power in Republican primaries.

Giuliani and McCain have long kept religious conservatives at arm's length. This year, they've been working hard to build bridges with evangelicals, but their efforts don't always ring true in the pews. They haven't championed social issues like abortion and same sex marriage and they don't seem particularly comfortable talking about their faith.

So there's a real ideaological opening in the top tier of the Republican presidential field, and Mitt Romney is ready to fill it. He's become an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion rights, despite indications he may have supported different positions earlier in his political career. He's held meetings with top national evangelical leaders, and reached out to smaller Christian groups in the key primary states of Iowa and South Carolina. He's got the message on social issues that these groups want to hear.

But there's a catch.

Romney is a Mormon, and many Christian conservatives aren't comfortable with Mormonism. Michael Cromartie, an expert on religion and politics, told me many evangelicals see Mormonism as a cult. In a recent ABC News poll, 35 percent of voters said they're less likely to support a Mormon candidate.

Think about it. Apart from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the top Mormons in the news lately have been alleged polygamist leader Warren Jeffs and the fictional polygamist family on HBO's hit show "Big Love." Most Americans probably know next to nothing about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the roughly six million Mormons living rather ordinary lives in the United States.

So chances are Mitt Romney will have some explaining to do. He's used to it, and points to another famous Massachusetts politician: John F. Kennedy. As the first Catholic president, JFK's road to the White House was paved with a million questions about whether the Vatican would shape his presidency. He was finally compelled to declare that on matters of public policy, he didn't speak for his church, and his church didn't speak for him.

Expect to hear something similar for Mitt Romney, before too long.

So what do you think? Is America ready for a Mormon president?
Posted By Claire Brinberg, CNN Producer: 2:21 PM ET
  47 Comments
Why not? He's not a purple dinosaur. He's a mormon.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 2:29 PM ET
No.
Posted By Anonymous Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 2:38 PM ET
The problem you don't address here is that he is a north east liberal. No self respecting midwestern or southern republican will vote for him.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison, Wisconsin : 3:05 PM ET
I think that his Mormon faith may hinder his electability somewhat, but that is not his biggest obstacle. By far, the biggest problem with Romney as president would be his far-right political stance. He is so far to the right he would be nearly unelectable. I think America is very tired of the religious right trying to influence the rest of the country with their privately held beliefs. When a church becomes a private interest group with influence over the direction of an entire country there is something terribly wrong with politics.
Posted By Anonymous nathan karczewski, junction city, KS : 3:07 PM ET
Hi Claire~
Romney is no JFK. No, I don't think this country is ready for a Mormon President, especially one who says,"Marriage is bewtween a man and a woman, and a woman, and a woman. . ." and thinks its a joke. I fail to see the humor.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 3:09 PM ET
Hi Claire,
I'd hate to see us in this country start to give an A to Z test for every humans personal life. Who will determine who passes? We don't need to open up a can of worms by demanding that every public person will now get ZERO amount of privacy. Some loss of privacy, yes, but not exposed to the bone. We wouldn't want that "test" in our workplaces. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif : 3:14 PM ET
Hi Claire,
I don't see why America would be any less likely to vote for a Mormon than for a woman or an African-American for President.
AC360 has spent a lot of time this past year differentiating between the Mormon Church and the Church of the Latter-Day Saints and polygamy. They have tried to make it very clear there is no tie between the two churches anymore.
If I were Mitt Romney I'd be more worried about my stand on same-sex marriage and abortion. Of course that's where the tie to the Mormon church comes in, or any other religion that takes an irreversable stand on these two important issues. I would say this leaves him slightly less chance than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to become the next President.
Just my opinion.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario Canada : 3:18 PM ET
If he is willing to keep his religion out of public policy then why not. I am suspect of any public figure who uses his religion as a platform. Instead of Shia and Sunni we have different names here, like Christian, Catholic and Mormon. Religion has NO place in a political race and candidates need to stop pandering to the special interests of religious groups. The rest of us want fair and equal representation or have they forgotten about the rest of us. It's the people they serve in office, not God.

I'll pose a question we posed on the blogs of our local paper, would you vote for an Atheist?

My answer, certainly if I felt they were the right person for the job. A person's faith should not dictate how you vote, their ability to do the job should. Otherwise you end up with.....well you guys got what you paid for didn't you.
Posted By Anonymous Melina - Mesa, AZ : 3:27 PM ET
I live in Massachusetts, so I've seen Mitt Romney's "work" as governor. You all know about The Big Dig, right? A total failure. He flip-flops on issues. He started out "pro-choice", but now says his position has "evolved"--he's now pro-life. How do you make such a disaprate switch? With so little explanation? He once made a comment, regarding gay marriage (it's still legal in MA), that he believes marriage is to be between a "man and a woman...and a woman...and a woman...and a woman." Granted, it was a joke, but a tasteless joke nonetheless. In his Senate race in 1994, against Ted Kennedy, it was less about the issues and more about mud-slinging, illuminating his perceived ideas of Kennedy's flaws. He lost, but that still has made a negative impression on me. My impression of Romney, due to the inaction I've seen in Massachusetts during his adminstration is not a favorable one. I think the question is less about his religion, and more about his politics. Or lack thereof.
Posted By Anonymous Mandy, Boston, MA : 3:43 PM ET
If the election was held today, being a mormon would hurt his chances considereably because the average american knows very little about the mormon faith. However, if Romnney becomes a viable enough candidate then I'm sure we'll all be seeing enough discussion of his faith just as we did when JFK was campaining. In the end it would be a non-issue.
Posted By Anonymous Michael , NYC, NY : 3:55 PM ET
The notion that religion should be kept out of political stances is an interesting one. Would that apply to Martin Luther King? How about Daniel Berrigan? Should the mainstream churches advocating greater aid for the poor be told to pipe down - we don't need their religion in our political discourse? Or is that an honor reserved for religious conservatives?
Posted By Anonymous Bill Dalasio, New York, NY : 4:01 PM ET
Is the US ready for a Mormon President? Sure. Or a Black president or Woman or Jewish or blind. I think that right now in the US we are less concerned with what a candidate is, and more with what they do and say.
That, at least, gives me hope that Mitt will never be elected President. He wasn't a good Governor of Massachusetts and his flip-flopping and hatemongering are more than I can take. Last year's elections showed that the US is paying more attention, and the nation is ready for one thing- a President who will actually be able to govern intelligently and fairly, regardless of his faith. Romney is just like Bush: Arrogant, Ignorant, and Irresponsible. America is not ready for another one of those.
Posted By Anonymous Monique, Boston, MA : 4:11 PM ET
Mitt Romney will say or do anything necessary in his attempt to become President. It's not his Mormon faith which will hold Romney back, the Mormon faith hasn't hurt Harry Reid's career, it's Romney's complete lack of sincere principles on any issue.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 4:23 PM ET
American's are tired of the same people over and over again, trying to make an effort, and we still have the overwhelming issues of a domestic agenda at hand. Mitt Romney is no JFK. The John Mc Cain's need to stay in the outhouse, they are all talk no walk, as far as others, I can only see career politic's, when we really need change. Congress or the democrats are not taking the lead with this current administrations failures with the Iraq war. I see the front runners, as ones like John Edwards, Barrack Obama, the newer and younger visions over passe ludicrous waving career wannabe's we have always known. Not the Guiliani's and Gingrinch's definately not a vote here either. If our great nation will move forward it will be away from career politic's and the same people that already were given a chance in office. Speak to the hand. Amen!

Political Activist/Republican Presidential Write-In-Candidate in 2004
Posted By Anonymous David Giacomuzzi Palm Springs, CA : 4:32 PM ET
Didn't Mitt Romney have something to do with the Olympics? That's the only thing I remember about him when I heard he was running for Governor. I always wondered how the Olympics made you qualified to be a governor. Apparently, it must have something to do with being president as well.

I think I'll vote for Hillary; at least we'll get President Bill Clinton back in the oval office and maybe gain a few other countries back on our side again. Approve of his morals or not, the counry was in much better shape back then.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 4:46 PM ET
My personal feelings aside, I think the US is ready for ANYONE without the name Bush, not too far right or left, not pro-war, and someone who has not changed their stand on the major issues in the last 5 years...It's going to be anyone's ball game, but a very tough ball game with a lot of mud-slinging, I'm sure... I dread the few months before the actual election when the political ads start to get very ugly...
Posted By Anonymous Sherry Sarasota, Fl : 4:59 PM ET
Mitt Romney has a better chance of getting elected than does Barak Obama who is a better candidate.
Posted By Anonymous liz, Montgomery, AL : 5:04 PM ET
Why not? As an Orthodox Jew, I'd love to hear what he has to say. Everyone in the land of opportunity deserves the platform on which to speak. If you look at every Tom, Dick and Harry that wrecked havoc in our nation, he might surprise us.
Posted By Anonymous Dora Ann, Chicago, IL : 5:09 PM ET
Mitt Romney is boring. When it comes to hot botton issues like, blood transfussions in hospitals, having multipule wives like, Warren Jeffs, we know where he stands. If Romney went to Hollywood and became the new Charlie, in the Movie Charlie's Angels, I would be more interested.
Posted By Anonymous Claude Calgary AB Canada : 5:13 PM ET
I could care less that he's a Mormon. However, I do care that he's a hypocrite. Romney used to be more of a moderate, but now he's changing his stances to play to the far right base. Apparently he'll do anything to get elected.
Posted By Anonymous Stacy, St. Louis, MO : 5:34 PM ET
I am what you would call a Libertarian. I do lean left of center, admittedly. But thanks to good ol dubya we are so far in debt our children's children's children will be lucky to see light at the end of the deficit tunnel Georgie has dug for us. Romney and the big dig? Superfailure! We could use a little fiscal conservatism. The last thing we need is another social conservative. Who cares if gays marry when we are getting ready for the second depression? Why do the deaf dumb and blind American public rightists keep bleating about stupid wedge issues like gay marriage and taking the oath with a Koran instead of a Bible? OPEN YOUR EYES before it is too late!! Romney=Bush +mormonism
Posted By Anonymous nathan karczewski, junction city, KS : 5:37 PM ET
Hopefully not! Not because he's a Mormon, but because he's a politician who paraded around America mocking the citizens who elected him. Massachusetts made almost no issue of his religion and elected him based upon his merits (such as they are). Then, upon taking office, Mr. Romney spent most of his time out of state courting conservatives who would never be tolerant enough of his religion to vote for him anyway! Good riddance.
Posted By Anonymous Ashley P, Cape Cod, MA : 5:40 PM ET
Definitely not ready. Romney seems way too involved with his evangelical groups and I think they would indeed influence his political actions. Kennedy said the church didn't speak for him but I think Mitt Romney will speak for the evangelical Christians. Although there are about 6 million Mormons in the US, and Romney will get their votes, he is too closely tied with these groups to gain support form the rest of the American voters.
Posted By Anonymous liz y Toledo, Ohio : 5:43 PM ET
Is a Mormon going to be any less willing to lie, cheat and steal while in government, if not then vote 'em in, he can't be any worse than the ones already in there, or any different than the ones we have up here. Hey wanna trade? Really aren't they all just the same, just the names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.
Posted By Anonymous Em, Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 5:45 PM ET
I live in mass. Do yourselves a favour and learn from our mistakes: Keep away from him. He's a hatemonger.
Posted By Anonymous Blake, Boston, MA : 6:01 PM ET
Claire,


I think at this point in the game with so much at stake we should be asking what's on the resume? If we put all of the possible and full of promise for a better tomorrow candidates together now ,they don't add up to even one , none have shown the problem solving expertise so desperately needed in the middle east. We are in a crisis when it comes to foreign diplomacy , what religion serves and how these candidates use what ever their religious extraction is, is so vague and wishy washy, I'm hardly impressed as many other Americans.

Maritza Munoz San Jose, Ca
Posted By Anonymous Maritza Munoz, San Jose, Ca. : 6:24 PM ET
In all honesty I believe that being a Mormon will hurt him. I've heard the average American complain about Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden but if asked, few can even tell you the difference between the two or even what one of them did specifically. When asking this question you must consider the majority of people that don't take time out to see the issues at hand or the stances being taken. Many voters depend on common knowledge(rather hear-say) and rarely take the time to find out specifics. More or less to most it is not Romney that is being evaluated but the Mormon(and all affiliates past and present).
Posted By Anonymous Jemaul, Savannah, Ga : 7:17 PM ET
I think most of us are not interested in more contraversy at this point. We're tired and want to focus on family and personal security. More religious contraversity especially in govt. will further anger voters and anti-establishmenters that are alive and kicking!!
Posted By Anonymous c. mulder--haughton, la : 7:25 PM ET
Claire/AC360:

So, it's okay for a Muslim to become a member of Congress but not a Mormon to become president? Allow the American people to debate and vote in 2008.

But if Mitt Romney decides to become the new owner of wedge issues (abortion, gay rights, stem cell research), so be it. Remember, America voted for a new Democratic Congress this November. Does he really want to go there?

It is going to be an interesting ride the next two years. Many names are going to be thrown into the presidential ring in 2007. Wake up! It is only the first week in January.

In the meantime, we have more important things to face such as the War in Iraq, Katrina recovery, education demands, environmental concerns, crime on the streets, etc.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 7:50 PM ET
Mitt Romney has stated he wished he never ran for Gov. of MA (wished he ran in the mid-west or something). What an insulting statement. I wonder if he would end up saying that about the US Presidency. I could have cared less about his religious beliefs during election. It was a non-issue, yet his governing was certainly religiously based, not Commonwealth based.

He formed a committee to try to reinstate the death penalty. I certainly think if he calls himself a Christian and practiced what he preached he wouldn't practice "an eye for an eye," but a "turn the other cheek" philosophy.

He has cut funding for education, health care, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment to name a few.

As a Western Mass. girl, I don't think he knows this end of the state exists, but that's because no one can get out of Boston because of the Big Dig.

Looking forward to see what Gov. Patrick does.

Best Wishes in 2007!
Posted By Anonymous Joanie, Turners Falls, MA : 8:00 PM ET
Hi Claire-No, I don't think the country is ready for a Mormon, especially after the hoopla about the Koran for inauguration today and the recent arrest of Jeffs. I truly hope we don't elect a conservative either.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 8:12 PM ET
As long as he doesn't bring his religion into legislature... And I'm pretty certain Mitt Romney is incapable of doing this.
Posted By Anonymous Shehan Jayawardena, Middletown CT : 8:51 PM ET
Good lord please no.
Posted By Anonymous Ms B Los Angeles CA : 9:48 PM ET
I believe Mormonism has a negative connotation in the United States, and while I am a not so conservative southern baptist, I am not sure that I or others who share my religion can be persuaded to vote so radically. Romney had a lot of explaining and convincing to do during his campain
Posted By Anonymous Jesse, Andalusia Alabama : 10:02 PM ET
Oh, the evangelicals will forgive Mitt as long as he keeps hating on gay people. For the party of "values," they have so few.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Nashville, TN : 10:54 PM ET
For a lot of reason other than what we see in Iraq, we should stop using religion and political together to achieave a desireable mode of personal interest. Politics and religion are way different. Politics is a mind game and religion is a believe, thoughful, mind, faith, spirtural game. We should respect all types of religion! I'm christian ortodox, i respect all types of religion. When we see a person we should see who they are! Not, his/her religion, because religion don't speak for that person. We should watch and rethink their word, because its more effective and vital. To answer your question, yeah why not we are ready to have any president who is ready to clean this disaster term and change it to a better living standard. Religion shouldn't influence any one of us, we seen it with Bush more than 3000 militarys are dead. I don't think any one who is Catholic would go to war with out any peaceful methods. what would happen if we have a muslim president? Do we even fight with mideast at all?
Posted By Anonymous Surafel, gilroy,CA : 12:26 AM ET
I dont know that much about the man other than his politics and his religion; and religion aside- his politics in Massachusetts set him and most politicians apart from the fiscal stability and international presence and national security we need in winning the war on terror without impoverishing our past, present, and numerous future generations. After we haven't had a minimum wage increase or a positive international image in decades. However, politicians who become presidents without being millionaires (become millionaires once elected) and congress continues to raise their paychecks and perks without so much as the blink of an eye. America needs to keep watch on the national debt and the avalanche of disrespect that follows the USA around the world because of chaos in light of our failure to have a consistent and productive foreign policy and an out of control judicial system.
(respectfully)
Posted By Anonymous Deidre Miller, Las Cruces,NM : 12:28 AM ET
Political stands require a structure or foundation in which each 'candidate' needs to stand. I am a Christian and live my life by the rules of the bible as it is... and personally don't recognize Mormon as a true religon, but more of a cult as stated in your write up. If you look back at history the Mormon religon was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. and American' prophet. He 'corrected the bible' and presented it. I'm not so sure I would want a President that is guided by 'corrected version of the bible'. This is by any other means a conjured up old fashioned cult. No different than witch craft or voodoo... it's someone's 'idea' of what religon should be. Not my vote!
Posted By Anonymous hb, Pensacola FL. : 8:46 AM ET
I totally agree with Betty Ann and Mandy comments above, especially that Mitt is no JFK. In my opinion, he is a hypocrite and a shameless flip-flopper, sucking up to the far-right extremists for his own interests.
Posted By Anonymous Jim, Somerville, MA : 9:27 AM ET
There needs to be trailblazers, otherwise progress arrives as quickly as snail mail. Romney mis-fired on his joke about plural marriage, Clinton once said she wouldn't "Stand by her man," and Obama is still new on the political scene. However, There was/is only one JFK, MLK or Ferraro. Politicians and other leaders need to stand on their own merit. OF COURSE, we might be ready for any of the above to be president. However, WHY hasn't anyone with their religion/gender/or race at least have had the opportunity to serve as V.P. of our country by now? Maybe we're not as progressive or au courant as we think.
Posted By Anonymous Carol B., Frederick, MD : 9:42 AM ET
Is America ready for a Muslim president? Um, my guess is no. Even though religion probably should not be an issue, it most definitely is.

By the way, how you even compare Mitt to JFK, or Mormonism to Catholicism is beyond me. It almost borders on blasphemy. I say forget Mitt. Let�s rally around Tom �Scientology� Cruise. The country could hold the first ever �silent inauguration�. Plus, odds are that he won�t take mind altering drugs. With Tom as the chief, we can all live happily ever after.
Posted By Anonymous Lucy, Toronto, ON : 9:49 AM ET
No. America's not ready, because our cultural "television-as-a-sole-source of-indisputable-information" mentality is like that of an infant, unable to distinguish (via actual research) a persons character from the buzzwords associated with it via the AP. Thanks to AC and those like him, Americans are beginning to get some information that can actually be used in processing opinions about the few relevant matters upon which we are allowed to vote. Of course, the subject 1000 times more important than all others, foriegn policy, will scarcely ever be one of them. Better to keep us arguing over "gay marriage".
Posted By Anonymous Rob Brighton, Fort Collins, CO : 12:37 PM ET
Wow, by the comments I think Mr. Romney should re-think running for President. He's already 'dead in the water'.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario Canada : 12:41 PM ET
There will be a lot of policy and challenges because I think there are so few mormon followers in America. American society is very loose and has enough trouble transversing in a conservative favor. I dont thing Americans are ready for a mormon president.
Posted By Anonymous israel, raleigh, nc : 1:20 PM ET
Yes. I mean, he's mormon, big deal. Why are we acting like he's not Christian because of it? They belive in the same Jesus Christ from the New Testament that I do. I've been to their church and have heard the discussions from their missionaries and I have to say, they are not a cult. That is just ridiculous. and for Brant, I beg to differ. I am a Southern Conservative and I would vote for Romney if I think he is the best candidate (and he just might be when you compare him to the old shoe McCain and the more left Rudy).
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Charlotte NC : 2:11 PM ET
I'm a registered Independent but if I was a Democrat I'd say, "Yes! Please, God, let Mitt Romney be the Republican candidate." There's no way this guy could win the presidential election. His record as Governor of Massachusetts is THAT bad and I'm confident that Massachusetts natives would do everything in their power to let the rest of the country know exactly how bad of a 'leader' he was.
Posted By Anonymous Brad, Boston, MA : 3:31 PM ET
I think the question should be, "is America ready for a president who has a clean past, lives a life character and integrity, and has historically done the right thing for his community, state and country?"
Posted By Anonymous Lisa, Durham, NC : 4:55 PM ET
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