December 6th, 2007
04:28 PM ET
15 years ago

How will Romney's speech play in South Carolina?

Will Romney's speech change any minds among evangelicals in South Carolina?

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) ­ - Two prominent voices in South Carolina Christian politics watched Mitt Romney's speech at Capitol City News & Maps in Columbia on Thursday morning: Oran Smith, president of the Palmetto Family Council, and Joe Mack, public policy director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Their thoughts? A solid performance, they said, but unlikely to impact what South Carolina’s evangelicals think about Mormonism.

"It was a good speech, but I'm not sure he changed anybody's mind," Mack said. "I'm not sure it explained the difference in Mormonism and other denominations."

Mack, a Baptist, said he was sure he and Romney were far apart theologically. But he added that they likely shared many of the same positions on "values" issues.

Christian conservatives are crucial to Romney's presidential bid, and white evangelical Protestants constitute more than half of likely South Carolina’s Republican voters, according to a recent AP/Pew Poll.

Thursday's speech was aimed squarely at those evangelicals in Iowa and South Carolina who may remain skeptical of his faith.

Smith said Romney nailed a few references sure to resonate with conservative religious voters here in the Palmetto State.

"For instance, his sadness over the coldness of religion in Europe," Smith said. "There is not a Christian church that that's not discussed on a regular basis."

The speech may have been short on theology – the word "Mormon" was mentioned just once – but Smith said Romney did well to avoid talking about the intricacies of his faith. And he would have been in bigger trouble yet had he tried to compare Mormonism to another form of Protestantism.

"For a minute there I thought he was going to go in the ditch," Smith said, comparing the Mormon faith to some of the Protestant Christian groups he mentioned, like the Lutheran and Pentacostal denominations. "I thought he was going to say that they were the same. But then he turned and he went toward Islam and the Jewish faith, and at that point I was more comfortable because at that point he wasn’t trying to say he was just another brand of Protestantism or Christianity."

Mack maintained that Romney's faith, not his past support for abortion rights or his Massachusetts pedigree, could still handicap his presidential bid, "at least among Baptists here in South Carolina."

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

Filed under: Mitt Romney • South Carolina
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Sarv, Miami, FL

    One should watch what comes out of ones mouth. Romney tried to attack Rudy in the GOP debate on illegal immigration issue and instead the tables turned on him when he was accused of having illegals employed at his home. And now this Mormon stuff. You do not prove that you are better candidate by critisizing others. Instead you should talk about what positives you have done and plan to do. If you throw mud at someone, be ready to get mud in exchange. Whatever negative you say (against anyone) could come back to haunt you.

    I don't think his speech would make any difference. People who are not Mormons and do not like Mormons, will never vote for him. And sensible people will not bring this issue to vote for a right candidate.

    December 7, 2007 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  2. C. McGuigan

    I'm a Canadian "Mormon" and I watch with much interest and disappointment at the fact that the so called “Christian” Evangelicals who should be following Jesus Christ’s commandment to “Love thy neighbour as thy self”, don’t seem to be following it. Openly discriminating against a faith which has been persecuted since it’s inception by the American public and ignored by the federal government during this time and even issued an extermination order by the government of Illinois (which was only repealed just recently by the way ). Evangelicals should hang their heads in shame. Would you not vote for Obama because of his race? I think they can be a bit more "Christian".

    December 7, 2007 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  3. anon.

    That picture looks like he is giving a Nazi salute.

    December 7, 2007 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  4. Glen, Boston, MA

    It is sad that our government is held hostage by groups of Christians who believe they hold all the answers and judge everybody else for not agreeing with them. Spiritual truths have little to do with what they believe.

    I guess that comes with the territory of culturally isolated segments of society. That's one reason Europe has moved beyond religion – that and the massive amount of destruction the manifestations of religion have caused over the centuries. We're just now beginning to experience that in our young country.

    December 7, 2007 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  5. Todd, SLC, UT

    "He looks like a president.
    He acts like a president.
    He talks like a president.
    He has the credentials to be a president.
    He SHOULD be a president..."

    Becareful. Once upon a time there was an American President named Warren Harding. Harding was elected on the same concepts, and turned out to be one of the worst presidents in history.

    It is hard to over look Mitt's flip flopping – he is a typical politician who blows with the strongest breeze. His integrity on the issues is what is at stake, not his religion.

    December 7, 2007 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  6. Steve, NY


    December 7, 2007 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  7. Amanda, Katy, TX

    Great to see a leader that thinks for himself and consults others, even God if he feels the need!!

    If you really believe Romney was ever pro-abortion you have been warped!

    Well done yesterday Mitt!!

    December 7, 2007 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  8. Tyler Wilson, Concord, CA

    I love it! Romney's religious commitment has helped him become a wonderful man, father, husband, business and political leader....! Thank you for your years of unpaid service, Congratulations on your nomination!

    December 7, 2007 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  9. Fran, Syracuse, NY

    why address the differences in religions. that would be stupid. people can get off their butts and find out for themselves. and I'd ask one of their missionaries or go to their website because I asked my pastor about the mormon church and he was only maybe 50-60% right about what he said.

    December 7, 2007 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  10. Trevor, Beaverton, Oregon

    last I read, the Mormon church has about 60,000 young men and women working the streets to explain their religion, teach families about Christ. It is all on

    Is there another church with that commitment to spreading the good word?

    Why would a candidate for president attempt that from a political pulpit? Mitt's speech was right on!

    December 7, 2007 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. Kevin, Concord, CA

    I did think that CNN's puppet show during the speech was entertaining. Where did they get the slanted information addressing old doctrines out of context? It appears they thought the speech was going to be about church doctrines, but it wasn't. Nice puppet show though.

    December 7, 2007 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. Dave, NY, NY

    You just showed yourself to be a member of the majority of the American people with little to no knownledge of history in general. But what's new, there are always ignorant people with their ignorant comments posted here.

    December 7, 2007 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  13. John Allan

    America needs fiscal discipline right now. It needs a strong military to combat the threat of radical Muslims. It needs a man who has honored his commitment to his family. Mitt Romney is all of these and more. His speech on faith in America was outstanding, even moving. This is the man I want as our president.

    December 8, 2007 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
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