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.

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- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Steve, Pittsburgh PA

    I think what Romney is saying is that despite the fact that they don't share the same religion, he is the candidate in the republican field that best represents the "values voters". While he is Mormon and the people who attend Bob Jones are Evangelicals they have alot more in common than they have differences. This is exactly the message he needs to be delivering to this group of voters.

    If you are following the campaigns closely, you cannot help but be impressed with what Romney has done. He's a little known governor from a North Eastern State that is leading in all three major primaries. Don't be suprised if you see Romney as the Repub nominee and not Rudy.

    November 9, 2007 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Juan Rivera, Wichita, KS

    How can we have a president that belongs to an cult church that does not believe in Jesus Christ. Instead they worship Moroni (American indian).

    November 9, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. J. Williams, Baltimore, MD

    Yeah, so this was "leaked?" Please.

    November 9, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. Bob Fender, Seattle, Washington

    The biggest problem that I have with all this is why is Mitt Romney being held to a differnt standard than everyone else? No one is talking about a catholic or a prodestant or a Methodist in the same comparisons that they are with Romney. It's time for people to be fair to all, that I bellieve was what this country was founded on, fairness for all, not fairness for all UNLESS they happen to be of this color or faith or ethic belief. Let's get real folks, talk about the issues, NOT the religions please! Or maybe to be fair, we need to start singling out each relegion for criticism or scrutiny as Mitt Romney is getting now?

    November 9, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. Patrick, Cincinnati,OH

    "people need to stop asking the government "what can you do for me now?"

    Yeah... don't ask the government to do anything for you from now on please. If there is an earthquake in your area... or a hurricane do not ask the government for help... but if you need a foreign country destroyed and rebuilt using your own taxpayer dollars we'd be happy to do that for you.

    Also... please never ask for help from those other government agencies... that republicans don't seem to consider socialist but they really are.

    Please ban all police and firefighters... provide your own protection from threats internal and external to your home.

    Please do not expect the government to educate your kids in the least. You are now required to pay for all their education from birth through college.

    Please do not expect healthcare even though it seems to be OK for congress and the military to have complete coverage.

    November 9, 2007 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Travis

    Governors Mormonism a problem?

    Why not ask the residents of Mass. if his religion was a problem?

    Why not ask the Olympic Organizing Committee if his religion was a problem?

    Why not ask the thousands of employees and business execs he has worked with over the years if his religion is a problem?

    Why not ask his study partners from Harvard where he got an MBA and JD simultaneously if his religion was a problem?

    I know, lets go do the deep south and ask Billy Bob if his religion is a problem...

    November 9, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. MediaJunkie, Washington, DC

    I find it disheartening that Romney feels it's necessary to try to get the vote of a group that feels that he is a member of a cult. I can't imagine how he must have felt while the dean tried to assure the audience they weren't endorsing Mormonism if they voted for him.

    November 9, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. John C Atlanta Georgia

    "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"

    Sounds like he knows when to tell you what you want to hear. This is the man that said "I will fight harder for gay rights than Ted Kennedy ever will"

    He is the one that is MOST likely to put his religios views into his politics. How he feels depends on who he is talking to. We don't need anymore of that!

    November 9, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  9. Mike, Cleveland, OH

    I have no respect for Bob Jones University or the people who try to court the BJU vote. It is an insult to me and many others who call Catholicism a "cult." Futhermore it is a racially intolerant school, which banned interracial dating till the year 2000, when GW Bush visited the school during the election.

    "Although BJU admitted Asians and other minorities from its inception, it refused to enroll black students until 1971"

    "Each student is provided with a filtered e-mail account. Using unfiltered Internet access via computer, mobile phone, or satellite phone is prohibited for residence hall students. The university provides content-filtered Internet access for student use that blocks pornography, "lurid violence," racial hate, and other "objectionable content." Internet filters also block Wikipedia in the dorms (but not the library), as well as some blogs and all chat groups and other forms of "unmoderated expression."

    DVD/VCRs are not allowed in residence halls; DVD players on computers cannot be used for watching films. Televisions may be used only as monitors to play video games.

    Students may not listen to country, jazz, New Age, rock, rap, or contemporary Christian music.

    The conservatives talk about the 'indoctrining' of students by 'liberal' professors, this is flat out censorship! Read more about the rules for students, including dress code. Talk about a supposedly christian school...more likely a christian madrassa!

    November 9, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  10. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    Mitt really ought to keep in mind that it's an evangelical nut–George Bush–who's responsible for a war 70% of the country is disgusted with. It's the evangelical nuts who keep trying to cram, if not their whacko religion itself, down everyone's throats, at least laws based on that whacko religion.

    Being know to pander to these nuts is going to imply either tacit approval of their warmongering, intolerant, bigotry or, at least, a willingness to pander to them. Neither is going to do Mitt any good.

    November 9, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. Jesus, Heaven

    Do not try to sway my flock Mitt. You are aligned with Satan, along with all other unbelievers.

    November 9, 2007 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  12. John, London, England

    Mitt Romney is a charlatan whose opinions change with the slightest whisper. The man ran for US Senate in 1994 promising to be more of an advocate for gays and lesbians than his opponent, Ted Kennedy,and now kisses up to the purveyors of hate and discord. It astonishes me that people cannot see through his political posturing – is it the television-anchor smile and hair? As a Democrat, I would gladly take someone principled like Sam Brownback or Mike Huckabee anyday over Romney, even though I disagree with almost all of their positions.

    November 9, 2007 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  13. Bill, Bloomington IL

    Roger, you must have been under a rock in the 90s when the Clinton Crime Family (CCF) was being investigated for everything and a family friend commited suicide. Also remember Slick Willy saying he didnt know under oath after he lied under oath.

    November 9, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  14. Bill, Boston MA

    The simple fact of the matter is that Romney is not, as is being suggested by some herein, "keeping his religion out of the office". He doesn't have the office, yet (and hopefully not at all). What he is doing is keeping his religion out of the campaign. Don't confuse the two, either honestly or deliberately.

    November 9, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Fred Grnkl, Atlanta

    Romeny has great hair. And isn't that what really counts?

    November 9, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  16. K. Holt, O'Fallon IL

    Romney is a cult member through and through and should not be elected to the highest office of the land so he can pollute the halls of government with mormonism. Pey Lay Ale (mormon temple chant)!

    November 9, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  17. John Chicago

    Mormonism is a CULT....

    November 9, 2007 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  18. Justin Weleski, Johnstown, PA

    Mitt Romney flip-flopped on abortion, gay marriage, and gun control. Mormonism is the least of his problems.

    November 9, 2007 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  19. Ron, Boston, MA

    What a utter joke and phony Romney is.
    Just 7 short years ago, here in Massachusetts, he met with liberal groups here telling us how "progressive" he was regarding pro-choice thinking, support of gay rights, and anything else he needed to promise to get elected. His "family values" mean getting the Romney Family into the White House. Period.
    Watching him "pitch" the evangelicals now, as he "pitched " us in 2000 is
    a sad comment on the Republican party.

    November 9, 2007 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  20. Hank, Fort Myers, FL

    The trinity of this man's religious beliefs is: me, myself, and I.

    November 9, 2007 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  21. Victoria, Winchester, VA

    I know one thing for sure...If we ever have a self-admitted Atheist running, I'll be the first person in live at the polls. These evangelicals have steered our Country to a place I no longer recognize. I'm an independent voter, but the closer Repubs get to budding up with the likes of hate mongers Robinson, the closer I move to the left.

    November 9, 2007 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  22. John, Columbia, SC

    Evangelism is a cult.

    November 9, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  23. Bryan, Firestone CO

    Dave from Richmond
    You are not Mormon, and you're using that line to draw people towards Ron Paul. Fine. Furthermore, you have no issue by Romney's statement about "Fine" either. You know that "fine" is not an indication of one 'selling out' or denouncing one's religion. It is an acknowledgment that we all are entitled to our own views and still work together toward a common cause. Right? "Fine"

    Romney is the man to beat. So he may have changed positions on issues. If he's the only candidate doing that, then let all the other candidates that aren't changing positions cast the first stone. Take McCain for example. He just changed his position 2 weeks ago on illegal immigration. Countless other changes – on both sides – I won't even mention.

    November 9, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  24. B. Garrett, Kemmerick, WY

    Here is a temple oath Romney does in the temple – "Health in the navel, marrow in the bones, strength in the loins and in the sinews, power in the priesthood be upon me and upon my posterity through all generations of time and throughout all eternity." This is called the "Second token of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the patriarchal grip, or sure sign of the nail."

    November 9, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. rob

    Why the heck to politicians visit Bob Jones U? First Dubya, McCain, and now Mitt. Why are they so anxious to associate themselves with unregenerate racists? There are hundreds and hundreds of colleges who NEVER get a visit from such powerful personages. Do the campaigns care about ordinary students, or just these ultra-marginal mental dead zones?

    November 9, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
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