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. Tony, Tulsa, OK

    " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

    Article VI, Section 3, U.S. Constitution

    Will these Republicans stop falling over each other to pander to the least educated class of people in the country?

    Alternatively, will the American people stop voting these fascists into office!?

    November 9, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  2. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    I hope the folks saying "Mormonism is a cult" realize that ALL religions are cults. Thousands of different beliefs and interpretations competing against each other for thousands of years. All based on irrational superstition and myth. How many millions have been tortured, ostracized and murdered to see who's unseen "god" is better than the others?
    We need intelligent rational decisions to guide our country and our world as we approach another Dark Age.

    Last time I made a similar comment I was called a fool, but who's the fool when you really think about it?

    November 9, 2007 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    These guys will say anything to get a vote

    November 9, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. Alexis de Tocqueville

    I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

    November 9, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  5. Bill, Bloomington IL

    every Christmas when you are not at work, remember there should be separation between church and state.

    November 9, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  6. Karl, Minneapolis, MN

    Romney didn't flip-flop on civil unions or gay-marriage:

    "A review of Romney's remarks shows that at an October 2002 campaign debate, he said: "Call me old fashioned, but I don't support gay marriage nor do I support civil union." Then, after the SJC decision legalizing same-sex marriage, he told WCVB on Dec. 17, 2003, that if he had to choose, he would favor civil unions over full-fledged gay marriage. However, he added: "But that is not my preference overall. My preference overall would be neither civil union or marriage."
    -Boston Globe

    November 9, 2007 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. roger, conway sc

    Bill, Bloomington IL...No Bill I was not under a rock in the 90's...I remember well all of the millions spent by you extremest trying to find something on the Clintons I don't recall any convictions...and all the hupla over Bill & Monica yes he was wrong but you holier than thou right wingers make such a big deal our of everything the dems do...yet when GW & his corrupt administration lie to the entire world about WMD and Iraq, Craig taps his foot in a men's bathroom, Vitter visits call girls, need I go extremests want to ignore it & act holier than thou....Well Bill those days are over we DEMS are standing our ground with you right wingers...

    November 9, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. Julia Hayden, Idaho

    If Romney is elected president, women will have no rights. The mormons believe that a woman cannot go to heaven unless she is married and can only obtain heaven thru the good works of her husband. There isn't a dime's worth of different in Warren Jeffs and Romney and Jeffs is going to prison if he don't kill himself first. The right wingers better look long and hard at the difference in their christian and the cult religion of Romney

    November 9, 2007 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  9. Jay, Pembroke Pines, FL

    Good grief people! Enough with the uninformed, unintelligent Mormon bashing. It is obvious some of you have never taken the time to understand other people's religious beliefs, whether Jewish, Mormon, Catholic, etc. If you look at any relgion, you'll find "different" beliefs or doctrines that are indeed odd to you, but not bad, just different.

    It is obvious that Romney isn't putting his personal beliefs into politics, he's way too smart and level headed for that. If he makes the ballot, he has my vote. If not, Obama all the way. Hillary is too shrewd, cold, calculated and manipulative to be in office.

    November 9, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  10. Zack Hayes, Kalamazoo, Michigan

    Bob Jones son, Rob Jones, is GAY. Know him well. I wonder what Jones senior thinks about that... In regards to Romney, whomever believes a politician trying to get elected should remember the "read my lips" issue tith Bush Sr.

    November 9, 2007 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. J., Nashville, TN

    It is so sad that a lunatic fringe like the evangelicals wield so much power (though I believe it is definitely on the wane – thanks in part to corruption/scandals and their idiot in the White House).

    These are the same twits who think the earth is 6,000 years old, that "Intelligent Design" is on par with evolution as a viable scientific theory, deny global warming, are anti-science, and are chomping at the bit to go to complete war with the Muslim world to trigger the rapture.

    If these groups would focus less on gay marriage, public displays of the Ten Commandments, prayer in school, abstinence-only sex education, etc., – and more on solving the problems of poverty, educational & economic inequality, oppression in all forms, and strive for world peace, then they'd be a group worth associating with.

    I believe it's time to start taxing the churches and universities that are in the political arena.

    November 9, 2007 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  12. Dan, Saint Louis, MO

    Romney is a good man who is running the best campaign in either field. For those of you who are liberals or progressives and, while defending Obama's skin color and Hillary's gender, you attack Romney's religion, you should be ashamed of your hypocrisy.

    The fact of the matter is that southern Christians, Catholics and Mormons all have doctrinal differences that might seem significant from within one of those religious world views. However, the fact remains that southern Christians and Mormons are share almost identical values in terms of abortion, gay marriage and the free exercise of religion. Utah, the one state dominated by Mormons, was the most Republican state in the 2004 election, followed by a few southern states dominated by Christian conservatives. The doctrines are different, but the values are the same. Mormonism shouldn't be an issue here at all for the southern Christians.

    November 9, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. Matt Kachaluba, Phoenix AZ

    Warren Jeffs has no chance of winning over the evangelical right.

    Oh, wait... I must have "inadvertantly" referred to a presidential candidate by the wrong name. I assure you, Mr. Romney, it was an innocent mistake.

    Obama in 08.

    November 9, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  14. Yury, NYC

    His father was born in Mexico. Look it up.

    CNN, you censor the wrong things.

    November 9, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. Brandon, San Carlos, CA

    and this is news? Jeez, the headline writers at CNN must've come from The National Enquirer.

    November 9, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  16. mark, Austin, TX

    I like Romney – I'm going to vote for him.

    November 9, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  17. dale saint pete fl

    Anybody who can be deceived by Mormons would probably be deceived by enemies both foreign and domestic. Vote No for Romney.

    November 9, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  18. morehighmindedlunacy

    To jeannie in sacramento: Jeannie do you really think if we caugh bin laden Islamic terrorism would stop and we would be back to rainbows and flowers world wide ? WAKE UP honey .

    November 9, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  19. John, Columbus, Ohio

    As a Bapitst, I am shocked at the hypocrisy of Dr. Richard Land of the SBC. If, in fact, he were genuine in his espousal that we are not electing a "pastor-in-chief" (and, presumably would gladly see a Morman elected president), perhaps he can explain why the SBC had historically extended the invitation to every US president over the last century to address their convention, yet abruptly stopped the practice when Clinton and Gore were elected in 1992.

    Ironically, not only were Clinton and Gore not the pastors-in-chief, but, on the contrary, they represented the first time that both the sitting U.S. President and Vice President were members of the SBC. Yet the SBC power elite wanted nothing to do with them.

    The SBC clearly has lost its way. It is not about professing a theological or evangelical point of view (otherwise they couldn't simultaneously snub fellow Southern Baptists, yet welcome the prospect of electing a Morman president). Instead, the SBC now is exclusively dedicated to wielding its power to pursue a very narrow political agenda.

    I'll pray for them.

    November 9, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  20. Lou, NYC, NY

    If it is not a good thing for Mitt Romney to be a Mormon running for office, what about Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) who is also a Mormon? Should he resign, or should he switch to the republican party? Just a thought...

    November 9, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. Devin, San Antonio, TX

    Tim from Buffalo,

    That's all America needs – another bitter ex-Mormon who feels like he needs to "warn" everyone about Mormons. Just for your information, Mormons are not the only ones who feel like these are the last days – are we all terrorists who read the revelations of Paul and apply it to our lives? We are still a nation that believes in God and in the Bible. You're basically saying that Mormons are terrorists, which really, really makes you look foolish.

    November 9, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  22. MJ, Galesburg, IL

    Of course Romney changes his position constantly whenever it is politically expedient. He learned it in church.

    The Mormon church changed their belief in polygamy in order to get Utah to become a state. How many other religions change their beliefs in order to get something from the government?

    November 9, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  23. Spencer, Columbia, MD

    Mormons aren't Christians? Give me a break! If Mormons aren't Christians, then what is a Christian? Mormons are probably the most devout Christians on the planet. People say they believe in Christ, but do they actually believe and practice what Christ taught? Mormons do (in general), and they are blessed for it. Their religion makes some pretty significant claims: God guides his children to happiness by revealing his will through modern prophets (just as he always has), and that we can distinguish truth (God's will) from error through the power of the Holy Ghost (that burning sensation you get when you know something is right). Isn't this what Christ taught? Mormons believe wholeheartedly in this. If this is what Romney believes, I have no problem having him as my president.

    November 9, 2007 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  24. David KY

    Left or right, does Roger in Conway SC really think that voting Democratic in 2008 will eliminate corruption? You have got to be kidding.

    November 9, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  25. Jo Anne, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Does Romney, like all good Mormons, practice lying for the lord? God help us.

    November 9, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
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