May 12th, 2009
12:20 PM ET
13 years ago

Romney camp hits back at Steele for Mormonism comments

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The Romney camp fired back at Steele's comments."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - In an unusual move for the person tasked with being his party's top cheerleader, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is shining a light on the political vulnerabilities of one of the GOP's top figures and a likely frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination - former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Now Romney's team is hitting back.

Steele, guest-hosting on Bill Bennett's radio show Friday, cast doubt on Romney's conservative bona fides and blamed the Republican base for rejecting Romney last year because "it had issues with Mormonism" and was unsure of Romney's commitment to opposing to abortion rights. Those comments aren't sitting too well with Romney's political team.

"Sometimes when you shoot from the hip, you miss the target," said Romney spokesman Eric Ferhnstrom. "This is one of those times."

A Romney aide noted that the former Massachusetts governor won the Conservative Political Action Conference's annual straw poll the past three years, won 11 presidential primaries and caucuses, and earned 4.2 million votes by the time he left the race in February of last year.

The RNC chairman made the comments when responding to a caller who claimed that Romney, if he was the nominee, would have been a stronger candidate against Obama than John McCain. The caller argued that Romney never got a chance to be the nominee because "liberals" and the media pushed hard for McCain to win the Republican nomination.

But Steele disagreed.

"Remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life," Steele told the caller. "It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitt because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you're talking about."

"So, I mean, I hear what you're saying, but before we even got to a primary vote, the base had made very clear they had issues with Mitt because if they didn't, he would have defeated John McCain in those primaries in which he lost," Steele concluded.

Audio of the exchange was captured by the liberal blog ThinkProgress.

Filed under: Michael Steele
soundoff (307 Responses)
  1. Jim

    " How could anyone vote for a man whose religious belief is that the earth is only 6000 years old ?"

    What the heck, the GOP threw up a VP nominee that believes in casting out witches.

    Seems about the same to me.

    May 12, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. HL

    No matter how conservative, non-Christians just aren't admitted into the Republican "Big Tent" on a national level.

    I could hope that Mr. Romney learns from the anti-Mormon bias that the Southern Strategy and appeal to the extreme social conservatism of the religious right in order to preserve tihe right to greed isn't the proper direction for the GOP. Perhaps this is the time to expose the un-Christian attitudes of the religious right?

    But I don't think he has the nerve (or the blessing of his church elders) to do so.

    May 12, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  3. Travis

    Mormons...I have a good friend that is mormon. He's a great guy and Mitt is a great guy.
    I am a republican, and I like Mormons but I would not vote Mitt because it would be a lost vote. The media and other Christian churches make Mormons out to be evil people because they hold values that are not PC.
    Michael Steele was right. It's unfortunate that it is so, but it is.

    May 12, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. Richard Slawson

    I'm not sure where "J" got his first hand information. My great-grandfather joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sweden. He did not join for free passage to the United States. None was offered. He and his wife sent each of their thirteen children, one by one, to America when they had saved enough money for each trip. My grandmother was baptised in Sweden at age eight in the dead of night in middle of the winter so that non-Mormon mobs would not disrupt the service. I am proud of the sacrifices that my ancestors made to join the Church and emmigrate to America.

    It is unfortunate that misinformation about the Church, its history and doctrine have distorted the way many Americans view its members.

    May 12, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. SlowGun

    Trying to keep score...
    Is this Steele's and Rush's current list of folks who aren't welcome in the rebuplican party?

    John McCain
    Meggan McCain
    Colin Powell
    Arlin Spector
    William Bennett

    but you have to give them credit for welcoming David Duke with open arms!

    May 12, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. joe

    As a Mormon, Romney believes that in 1834 (or something like that) the angel Moroni showed Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith, where to dig in upstate New York for gold tablets with writing in a secret language (constituting the Book of Mormon), then produced special lenses through which Smith could read the text in English. Naturally, after Smith was finished translating, the gold tablets and special lenses miraculously disappeared.

    And any non-Mormon seriously contends that someone who believes this should be President of the United States?

    May 12, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. DavidE73

    The argument that Huckabee prevented Romney from winning the Republican nomination in 2008 is wrong. The reverse would be closer to the truth. Romney has no chance in a Presidential contest because he is a poster child for extravagant spending. Huckabee would have a better chance in 2012 because he was frugal in his campaign style and effective when he governed Arkansas. The American people just need to know that he would not impose his social conservative values on the nation,. just as he did not on the people of Arkansas. His personal example would, however, be a great blessing to the nation.

    May 12, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
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