Maybe he’s trying to take a page out of the playbook of John F. Kennedy, who made a speech before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association during his 1960 presidential run, and endured a grilling in a lengthy Q & A session from the assembled ministers afterwards, re-assuring them that they they didn’t need to worry about him taking marching orders from the Pope. He wasn’t exactly grovelling either though...
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
He seemed to assuage their concerns for the most part. Even so, the electoral map of the 1960 results shows that Kennedy did not do quite as well in the South as Democrats traditionally did back in those days.
Romneys’ case is going to be different from Kennedy’s case with Catholicism, because the Catholic question was loaded with all kinds of questions regarding the separation of Church and State that don’t quite apply the same way here. Still, Romney might face a bigger challenge, because Kennedy could count on strong Catholic support in the Northeast and Midwest in 1960, whereas Romney’s religious base is going to be narrower than Kennedy’s was.
I’m from Massachusetts, so I’m familiar with Romney and the Republican governors before him… 16 years of Republican governors getting bored and losing interest in the job before they were done.... I’ll tell you straight out that I don’t care for him much, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Mormonism. Like many others, I consider him a carpetbagger, an opportunist, a flip-flopper, and a corporate downsizing schill. He didn’t look at this state as much more than a stepping stone in his larger ambitions, and is now making hay out of ridiculing it.
Years ago, shortly after Romney was defeated in his senatorial bid vs. Ted Kennedy, I was in my auto mechanic’s shop when I ran into an old schoolmate of mine, Bob Marsh. At the time, Bob was a young Republican political operative who had run Romney’s election campaign against Kennedy. We talked a bit about the race, and I expressed my surprise that as a Mormon, Romney had run for the Senate with a Pro-Choice position. He was trying to unseat Ted Kennedy using the Bill Weld, libertarian, socially-liberal-fiscally-conservative type of gambit. Bob told me bluntly, “No candidate with a Pro-Life stance could ever possibly win a Senate race in Massachusetts.” I remember thinking to myself, “That’s probably true, but on the other hand, if you run a Democrat against a Democrat, the Democrat is going to win every time.”
Mitt has since shed his Pro-Choice position, flipping now to say that he is Pro-Life, and he is weighing in on the whole gay-marriage thing too, in order to prove his socially conservative bona fides to Southerners. Will it work? I don’t know. I remember when Pat Buchanan came flying out of New Hampshire with a primary win in 1996 only to land with a thud in Bob Jones’ South Carolina. Buchanan, a Catholic, was everything the Christian Coalition could ever ask for in terms of a socially conservative candidate, but it didn’t matter. They broke for Bob Dole, of all people. Hey, who knows? As far as voters are concerned in presidential runs, maybe Mormons are one thing and Catholics are still something else altogether.