Mitt Romney dropped out of the Republican primary race this week after a poor Super Tuesday showing. It is generally agreed that this has made it possible for Senator John McCain to take the nomination. The New York Times has a piece retracing the Romney campaign’s missteps (placing a special emphasis on its failure to foresee Giuliani’s collapse and his Mormonism).
The Wall Street Journal, too, has a long piece on the failed candidate, focusing on the influence his religion may have had on his downfall. Even though the former Massachusetts governor denies that his religion had to do with his withdrawal, the article postulates, via the comments of various Mormon figures, that “[t]here will be a long-term consequence in the Mormon church”, especially with respect to how the church “should deal with the latent and overt anti-Mormon propaganda”. The WSJ report references a survey in which 50% of polled Americans would be either ” very uncomfortable” or have “some reservations” about having a Mormon president. Mormons won the highest percentage of discomfort points from a pool including evangelical Christians, women and African-Americans.
I found one quote from the WSJ article rather funny:
Mr. Hitchens, the best-selling author of “God is Not Great,” wrote last fall that Mr. Romney owed voters a discussion about “the mad cult” of his church. Similar commentaries inspired Ryan Bell, a Salt Lake City attorney, to start a Web site, Romney Experience.com last summer. “Every faith has wacky doctrines,” he says, adding that the press seems fixated on his faith’s more sensational side.
From an objective, non-religious point of view, let’s ask mainline Christians (and Mormons alike): Is the idea that a woman gave birth to a son as a “virgin,” — without any sexual intercourse whatsoever — because she was impregnated by the will of an invisible force, not “wacky”? I ask only because one evangelical preacher quoted in the same article accused Mormons of being un-Christian for believing that “God impregnated Mary in the normal fashion, not by granting her a virgin birth.” From a faithless point of view, a woman who tells you that she had a child but is still a virgin is hiding something.
Back to Mitt, though. A friend told me that he thought Romney’s failure was punishment from God. Romney, my friend says, did not do enough to promote tolerance even though he sought it from the larger confessions. However self-interested Romney was, his failure can be attributed to his inability to really connect with voters and his foolishly bombastic rhetoric.
Along with other Republican candidates, Romney rejected the idea of distinguishing between Islamic things and people and Islamist political ideology. In a speech on religious tolerance, he spoke harshly of a radical, violent Islam that “seeks to destroy” America. He reserved using the term Islamic for terrorists and fanatics, even while hinting at embracing Muslim moderates (whom he rarely actually referred to as Muslims).
His attempts to be a former Massachusetts governor who was more conservative than the rest, in the words of a top strategist, may have overcompensated. His frequent use of the phrase “radical violent jihad” and “Islamic terrorists” coupled with even more alarmist rhetoric came often off as cartoonish, especially when he couldn’t even pronounce the names of many of Islamist figures, such as Said Qtub, during debates. His reasoning for quitting the race was characteristic of this: “Frankly, in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be part of aiding a surrender to terror”, speaking of how divisions within the Republican Party could make it easy for either Senator Clinton or Obama to take the White House. Such language seems childish and immature, when compared to the diplomatic and firm language of John McCain. Quite frankly, Mitt Romney was unprepared to be president, and the fact that Senator McCain so handedly and magnanimously removed him from the race speaks to this.