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. Todd, SLC, UT

    "Americans do not respect believers of convenience," Romney said. "Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."

    This from a man who campaigned for governor of Democratic-leaning Massachusetts as a supporter of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control — only to switch sides on those and other issues in time for the GOP presidential race. The first thing he did as a presidential contender in January was sign the same no-tax pledge an aide dismissed as "government by gimmickry" during the 2002 campaign.

    By RON FOURNIER, Associated Press Writer

    As Mr.Fournier states, Mitt has bigger problems than his religion.

    MITT-TTIM; hey I just made a flip-flop to!

    December 6, 2007 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  2. Mike J, La Porte, TX

    Why do Americans still pay attention to religious hacks like Smith and Mack? Are these guys any more knowledgeable about taxes, foreign policy, immigration, crime, transportation, education, terrorism, etc. than the rest of us?

    Why have these people become the gatekeepers to the White House?

    December 6, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  3. Jeff, Schaumburg, IL

    It seems that a large portion of the Republican base are the people who are hurt the most financially by Republican fiscal policies (poor, rural, south), but they are dedicated to the Republicans because of their marketing themselves as the "Christian" party.

    That being said...who is going to vote for Romney? Islam and Judaism are FAR, FAR closer to Christianity than the Mormon faith. This is basically a candidate who appeals to the smaller portion of Republicans. Wealthy, not very religious northern Republicans. Congratulations Mitt, here's your 7 electoral votes.

    December 6, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  4. Jacob, Moscow ID

    This Speech could go down in history as the defining script, second only to the constitution, as to the role of religion in the United States of America. It was delivered by a man with great moral authority on the subject and the religious experience Mitt has under his belt is matched by few. He served two and a half years of unpaid service to the study of faith and the sharing of his beliefs to people of an other country. He raised a family that demonstrates a deep belief in god. He served several years as a bishop and nearly a decade as a stake president both of which were entirely unpaid and voluntary. He presided over many bishops as a stake president. Bishops in the Mormon Church are similar to pastures such as Huchabee. Mitt has spent most of his adult life encouraging a belief in god while trying to raise a family and obtain success in his business ventures, and has been very successful in all.

    This one will go down in history

    December 6, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Kay P., Hayfield, UT

    Why does Romney have to explain the difference in Mormonism and other denominations. That isn't his place. He's running for president. His two years of missionary service are over. What happened to the separation of church and state? Why are they so focused on differences? What they should be looking for are the similarities.

    Why aren't the religious differences being focused on with the other GOP candidates? They are all of different faiths too, I'm sure?

    December 6, 2007 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. Shawnie Cannon, Grants Pass OR

    Expecting Mr. Romney to get doctrinal and into religious theologies was an unrealistic expectation. Saying that he owes an explanation to the Evangelicals for how his religion is different is pompous and intolerant. I would have thought much less of Romney if he HAD attempted to use the spotlight to further his own religion. He did not. He attempted to unify. Shame on the Evangelicals who so venomously segregate. I was just on a blog where one "orthodox evangelical" said Catholics weren't Christian either.

    December 6, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. John Barry

    I have long wondered about the 'mysterious' Mormons. I have heard some scary things on the street about what they believe. But my question for all Mormons is, "Can I come to your worship services to find out for myself what it is all about?" ...I would think the answer would be "NO!" Thus I still think there is some cult going on there and that they are hiding something.

    December 6, 2007 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  8. sam,newton,Iowa

    Romney is really desperate. He can not swallow the fact that someone else is leading. Romney I am sorry but we don't want your desperation!

    December 6, 2007 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  9. dave, dallas,tx

    Romney, you change in everything plus your religion. What do you stand for Romney? Tell me one thing. I am not secure with your one and offs!

    December 6, 2007 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  10. K Scully, Ruffin, SC

    I have to wonder, whether Romney's "Faith Speech" was really about taking prospective voters' attention off his "immigration Faux Pas"! (Attacking Rudy while there were illegals still working at his own mansion)

    December 6, 2007 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  11. Ryan, Oakland, CA

    I'm not sure anyone was expecting Romney to explain the differences between Mormonism and other Christian sects. There are other people, missionaries, preachers, etc who are willing to do that. As a presidential candidate Romney only needs to explain how his faith relates to how he'll govern. And he did that pretty well I think.

    December 6, 2007 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  12. Justin, Grand Junction, CO

    "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

    Really? Think about this- religion would not exist without freedom? Freedom would not exist without religion?

    I know plenty of non-religious people who are free... I know plenty of religious people who are not free.

    December 6, 2007 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  13. Alexander, Yigo, GUAM

    I think he did a spectacular job all things considering. I think he did what he should've done. Like it has been stated, he should focus on what religion has done for our nation, and on how we are similar as a people. We are the "UNITED STATES" not the "50 Different Religous Almost Allied States"

    Go Mitt!!

    Also, Jeff...apparently you know nothing about religion to say, "Islam and Judaism are FAR, FAR close to Christianity than the Mormon faith." One, maybe learn something before you open your mouth and trash talk. Two, you could indicate in some small way how that might be. For instance, not that I'm an expert on Islam or Judaism, but to my understanding neither faith accepts Jesus Christ as the Son of God as the Mormons do. That doctrine/principle alone brings mormons close to Christianity. Get over your personal dislikes and learn the facts. You are a prime example of why people of religion have to defend their own freedoms granted to them by our own Constitution in our own country.

    This is a Presidential Race, not a religious bashing contest. We shouldn't have to require 1 candidate to differentiate his faith from everyone else and not require the same from every candidate.

    December 6, 2007 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  14. Curtis, Coumbia, MD

    "Americans do not respect believers of convenience," Romney said. "Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."

    This from a man who just had "illegal mansion". Whats the use?

    December 6, 2007 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  15. rachel mark, beverly hills ca.

    Mormon Leader in the White House, that would be a good thing. My sister lives in Chehalis Washington… where all the flooding is going on, 300 people had to be rescued from their rooftops… guess who were the first helpers into the area? Not the Red Cross, they were second… the Mormon Church… my sis told me that there are two Mormon Church houses in Chehalis that were opened up within hours after the flooding started, for people to go to, the local Bishop Storehouses started to send supplies… people of all faiths are welcomed to go in and stay and there are cots to sleep on and food, and then supplies to take back home…
    My sis was able to get food and supplies yesterday, from "The Mormons"
    Three semi-trucks are also on their way from SLC, loaded up with more supplies for people in the hard hit areas. Go to National News and you will see that the Mormons are sponsoring clean -up crews that will go door to door this Sat.
    Posted By Rachel Mark, Beverly Hills, ca. : December 6, 2007 3:09 pm

    December 6, 2007 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  16. Alan Hepler, Laytonsville, MD

    It isn't his religion, it's his party which he represents which is bothersome. Add to that all of the flip-flops and playing to the crowd he is trying to wow and there can be no trust. After all the GOP gave us Nixon, Agnew, Kent State, Watergate, Irangate, Iraq, $100 oil, a huge deficit, out of control spending, taxes, housing failures, Katrina failure, Afghanistan, dead soldiers, wounded soldiers, a weak dollar, a failing infrastructure, broken borders, long lines at airports, lies about Iran's nuclear program, terror ant time you want (Omaha, VA Tech, Columbine–forget the Islamic extremists, we do it to ourselves) and so on and so on......... If we as a people don't wake up and learn from history, forget the rhetoric and poltical promises which rarely materialize then we are getting exactly what we deserve....after all who would have hired Bush with his resume...only the American people, and all of the gay Senators and Representatives who get caught in Airport bathrooms or propositioning pages, while posing to be "men of
    God" who are they kidding? Oh yea, the American electorate. Being a Morman, is the least of his problems.

    December 6, 2007 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  17. john williams san diego, ca.

    Any religion is fine with me as long as it rejects people as Kennedy, Kerry, Osama Bin Lada and JIMMY CARTER

    December 6, 2007 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  18. HS, Columbia, SC

    I thought Gov. Romney's speech was about Mormonism but it was just another well-publicized opportunity for him to talk about his candidacy. I think he did this because of Mike Huckabee's rise in the polls. The mainstream media is positive on the speech because they want Rudy to win the nomination, as he polls far weaker than Hillary Clinton. Huckabee polls far stronger than Rudy against Hillary (in fact, Huckabee wins). They think if Romney can defeat Huckabee, then Rudy will defeat Romney, giving them the Democratic victory in November.

    I also think it's interesting that in the mainstream media, Huckabee is referred to as Southern Baptist Minister Mike Huckabee, and yet Mitt Romney is NOT referred to as Mormon Bishop Mitt Romney. And yet that is what he was – a Bishop in the church. By the way, anyone who wants to know more about Mormonism should visit

    December 6, 2007 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  19. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    After watching the evening news and talking heads, it seems to me that The Speech failed to address why Mormonism is not a fringe Christian cult, and offended nonbelievers by asserting that "freedom requires religion".

    December 6, 2007 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  20. Bill , Covington,LA

    So,so many sick people, i was undecided, I've read the speach over several times, now I'm decided. Many other presidential asperents could have made the speach but, they didn't. Congratulations Mitt,

    December 6, 2007 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  21. Chris, Portland, OR

    I like the picture of the "salute". Does Herr Romney have a hidden agenda?

    December 6, 2007 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  22. Joe Nardolillo Johnston RI

    Come on ,how much clearer can you get? If any candidate said that his or her oppinion was influenced by their Religion what would you say then? It should be "illegal" (Like illegal aliens) to be a Republican or Democrat or Independent or any party. The candidates should run just on what good they believe they can do for the American People. The campaigns are so sickening to watch or listen to that most people don't even care who makes it because they believe it will not make any difference.We still live in the best country in the world but if we don't smarten up we will all be talking Arabic or Russian. I hope and believe that won't happen. The Government in Washington should take a few steps back and look at what is going on in the world instead of their re-election. I wish they would just step back and come to their senses and see whats going on around the world and do whats good for the USA and everything after that is not as important. How many countries send us money every year? I believe in freedom and individuall rights, but they must be earned!
    As far as illegal aliens are concerned I think it is simple. If you want to come to the USA and live here you should have to go through the proper channels. Most people I know
    , including my family, came here through Ellis Island. The Government should find all the employers that are hiring these "illegal" aliens and make them pay a fine. What I remember from school is that "Illegal" means against the law. Sounds pretty simple to me. Just send them back to where they came from and make them do it the right way. It seems to me that the only reason that the government doesn't really do anything about it is because they probably can get more votes with all these aliens whom can get a license
    and can register to vote.

    December 6, 2007 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  23. William Courtland, Waterford, Ontario

    I am just wondering about how the Mormon Church deals with deformed or Conjoined children and their relation to Garmies.

    Faith is, while belief requires data.

    So I can have faith that The Nothing of my dreams: has created something only one who understands The Nothing can know, but one must also become nothing to understand fully what that something which nothing created is. And in knowing that The Nothing created a reason for fatih and that it can not be phsyically described beyond that; so can not be believed.

    December 6, 2007 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  24. Lowell Ballard, Wheaton Il

    Mormons are good people, but I would have three concerns about a mormon president:

    1. Feelings seem to trump intellectual inquiry as a determiner of truth (ask any mormon how they know the book of mormon is true).
    2. Mormons believe in a living prophet with the same or greater authority than Joseph Smith. A believing mormon would have to give great weight to the views of their living prophet (something similar might be said of the Catholic faith, though).
    3. There seems to be enough evidence to prove the book of mormon is not true. For example, go to the hill Cumorah in New York and ask to see the artifacts of the two great battles the book of mormon says were fought there with over 2 million people dying (there are no artifacts). This is just one example of many problems. Mormon scholars have potential explanations but many suggested answers don't match what Joseph Smith and the early mormons believed.

    The LDS and other mormon churches have alot of good qualities that the christian denominations should work harder to emulate. If I thought the book of mormon were true history I would be glad to have a mormon president, but sadly I don't think that is the case.

    December 6, 2007 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  25. Harry Riesendel, Corydon Iowa

    Joseph Smith, the aProphet and bSeer of the Lord, has done more, csave Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the dfulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain.

    SECTION 135

    More than any other man that ever lived it it? What a proclamation of an absolute cult!

    December 6, 2007 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
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