November 9th, 2007
04:30 PM ET
14 years ago

Inside Mitt Romney's private pitch to evangelicals

The audio recording provides a rare glimpse into Romney's private efforts to win over evangelical Christians skeptical of his Mormon faith.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - At an invitation-only meeting held Tuesday with students, faculty and alumni of the fundamentalist Bob Jones University, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney put aside questions about his Mormon faith and focused instead on what he described as his shared values with Christians, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by CNN.

Although Romney has often spoken publicly about his efforts to allay the fears of evangelical Christians over his Mormon faith, the audio recording of the event provides a rare glimpse into Romney's private efforts to court the constituency many see as crucial to his presidential bid.

"I get good support from evangelical Christian leadership around the country, you know, despite a difference in religion," Romney told the audience of evangelicals gathered at the Greenville Hilton.

"I think it was Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention who said we're not electing a pastor-in-chief, and so I appreciate that support and just you remember that when you go to vote," he said with a laugh.

The recording, which was done without the knowledge of the Romney campaign or those from the Bob Jones community in attendance, was provided to CNN by an alumnus of the fundamentalist Christian school who was invited to the private meeting, which was described in an e-mail he also provided as "designed to specifically reach out to members of the Bob Jones University family."

Read the entire story and listen to the audio recording here.

Check out CNN's new politics portal:

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. JT, Ada OK

    Isn't that unethical to sneak a recording at an invitation-only event? Of course, political candidates know they are always under the spotlight, but this sounds dishonest.

    Too bad you conspiring fools didn't find any fodder to smear Romney by recording this private meeting.

    November 9, 2007 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  2. Steve, Lyons, CO

    Bob Jones Intolerance U?

    Bye, Mitt. You're toast.

    November 9, 2007 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. Mike Gaudreau, Chicago, Illinois

    I find two very remarkably republican points about this "discussion:"

    1) The source of the recording felt he had to remain anonymous because "he did not want to anger the [religious] university community," and

    2) It was an "invitation only" event.

    November 9, 2007 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  4. Jeannie, Sacramento, CA

    I concur with Romney, even though I'm not a Republican. The qualifications of a good president DO NOT include his religious preference. The rise of the southern evangelical right and the manner in which it has exacted itself into American politics the past 30 years is dangerous and will continue to divide the nation. Just look what we have in George Bush!

    November 9, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. Chris, Middletown, CT

    As Americans – we have the freedom of religion – having one forced down your throat is not what people want or need. On the left – people need to stop asking the government "what can you do for me now?" – thats why I'm voting for Giuliani

    November 9, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. Joan S.

    What is up with people ALWAYS associating GOVERNMENT and RELIGION together? There is really no separation of church and state.

    November 9, 2007 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Jeannie, Sacramento, CA

    Question for Romney: Why aren't we in Afghanistan looking for bin Laden and what are you going to do about that if and when you become president?

    November 9, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. John T, Omaha, NE

    I'm still somewhat perplexed as to why the Evangelical Christians are looking at Romney and Giuliani, as opposed to Mike Huckabee. Yes the first two candidates mentioned have name recognition, and therefore most would decide in a knee-jerk reaction that they are more electable. But Huckabee has proven to be intelligent, a gifted public speaker, and most importantly for conservatice Christians, a Baptist minister. I'm not saying that I personally endorse Huckabee, but I do find it odd that more groups aren't throwing their weight behind him.

    November 9, 2007 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. T. Tim, Lodi, Wi

    "The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." Ratified during Washington's term by the Senate. The US is NOT a theocracy, and never
    should be.

    November 9, 2007 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  10. Beth,New heaven,CT

    As Americans – we have the freedom of religion – having one forced down your throat is not what people want or need. On the left – people need to stop asking the government "what can you do for me now?" – thats why I'm voting for Giuliani

    Posted By Chris, Middletown, CT : November 9, 2007 1:27 pm

    Keep Voting for whoever you want.....You can worship who you want in the world. The thing is, I want a president that doesn't flip flop all the time. I wanna feel included in the goverment and the things that they make decision on, I wanna feel not dopped or lied to...I wanna trust my American goverment again,
    I am voting Obama this time around come what may!

    November 9, 2007 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  11. Jo, ATL GA

    What shared lies frm those that call themselves Christians or Christian Leaders; "We are not electing the Paster in Chief"

    So why the Hillary bashing? Or the saying it will rally the christian right?

    Christain in America: Call it what it is!!! You don't support anyone that sees Black and white co-existing. Only those that believe in Whites only.

    Mitt....that's all they want to hear from you. Whites only.

    November 9, 2007 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  12. kate lee, Scottsbluff, NE

    Kudos to the person who recorded the Romney speech and wants people to know that the administration of Bob Jones U does not speak for all its members.

    I'm presuming BJU is a for-profit organization; otherwise, it seems to be putting its tax status at risk, especially when administrators publically endorse a candidate and encourage others to vote for him.

    I was very concerned about Bob Jones's comment on being able to build and fund a campaign. Does this mean that BJU is contributing funds as an entity to the campaign or getting funds from the campaign for its own uses. Whatever the answer may be, it's not a good one.

    November 9, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. Mary, Kemmerer, WY

    Who cares what church he goes to or if he goes to church at all! His religion is not part of the job description that he's applying for. For those who think it is, I think YOU need to separate church and state.

    November 9, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Karl, Minneapolis, MN

    Good, this just clarifies to me that Romney knows enough to keep his religion out of the office as much as he can.

    Sounds like he's my man for 2008.

    November 9, 2007 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. Neil, Zephyrhills, FL

    I believe our faith will affect our leadership whether spoken or unspoken, though I am also confident that this man wouldn't seek to convert the US to Mormanism. Several of our former presidents claimed to be Baptists, though I'm still wondering if they represented the Baptists well or not!

    November 9, 2007 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  16. Tim Bartlett Buff NY

    As an ex-mormon with a 30 year experience of mormon psychology,i feel 100% certain that if Romney were to be president he most certainly would lead the USA down the path of armageddon rapidly.The man sincerely believes that he will be a God one day,with many wives,also that these are the last days.If you knew what was in his mind you'd equate it with terrorism.

    November 9, 2007 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. Jerry

    I do not have any problem with people making their own choice or nonchoice about religion. But when people believe that Jesus lives on another planet, and at the end of the world will have to come to the vaults under the Salt Lakes to see who is Morman, who has married in the Morman faith, I have a litle problem with the logic of it all. They even have Morman marrriages for the dead and then archieve them. All religions have some oddities to them, but these things go way beyond what what I can fathom. What other beliefs come to this kind of logic.

    November 9, 2007 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. slc ut

    Republican = War hungry perverts!

    November 9, 2007 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. Brain, RI

    This guy changes positions where politically convinient....He was against abortion till he was for it, he was against gay marriage till he was the first governor to legalize homosexual marriage in massachusetts, he was against guns control till he then changed to be pro gun control...What do you stand for firmly Romney? Now you are against all the above just for convinience of being elected the president of united states...No matter how presidential you look you are a let people in massachusetts unhappy because you abandoned them and your job rushing out for presidential post.
    You know, I have no problem with you being a mormon but I have a problem with your illegal activities with Bain co. the company you held in massachusetts.
    I am just trying to tell people who you really are for them to make a good decisions come next elections......

    November 9, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. roger, conway sc

    REMEMBER the BUSH secret meetings & invitation only campaign rallies etc... that is all we need is another corrupt administration... VOTE DEMOCRATIC 08.

    November 9, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. John Allen, Boston Massachusetts

    I'm glad to see that many conservative Evangelicals are willing to overlook religious differences and focus on shared values. Mitt Romney is the best candidate in the field, hands down. I am confident he is gaining the momentum he needs to win the presidency. The GOP and the nation will be privileged to have this classy, accomplished gentleman as the president of our great nation!

    November 9, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. Jacob, St Louis, MO

    I'm confused Chris. How did you gather that Romney is going to force Mormonism down your throat? You really think he's going to announce a "Mormon Learning Day" where everyone in school learns about Mormons? Get real... If anything, he's trying to downplay Mormonism in the election and focus on the issues he supports.

    I just don't get this Evangelicals Against Mormons movement. Don't they also believe that Catholics and Jews are wrong as well? Can anyone imagine this much of a problem with a Catholic or Jewish republican candidate? Maybe I don't understand because I'm not that religious, but wtf?

    November 9, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. John, Kill Devil Hills, NC

    Wouldn't it be nice if, for one election, the candidates would simply refuse to pander to the extremes of either the left or the right?

    November 9, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. Dave, Richmond, VA

    Gov. Romney should be ashamed of himself for selling out to the Evangelical movement. When Bob Jones says "your religion is wrong" Mitt says "fine"? Mitt should tell the whole evangelical crowd to pack it and run on the issues. Religion does not always equal values. Just look at the current Oral Roberts scandal and the investigations currently going on with Ken Copeland, Creflo Dollar, et. al. Romney equivocating on his beliefs to try and fit in with these people and allowing them to constantly insult and degrade his religion while seeking their endorsement shows me a character flaw I cannot abide. When JFK was elected, he made it clear that you were not voting for a Catholic for President but a president who happened to be Catholic. Not once did he try to make his Catholicism something it is not and never did he abandon his Catholicism for the sake of an endorsement. I am Mormon and I will not be voting for Mitt Romney. Ron Paul is now my candidate.

    November 9, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    What if all American voters were Mormons, what issues would then have to be addressed? Facing the major challenges of our nation or changing our religion.

    November 9, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
1 2 3 4 5