Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Newsweek: 2008: America's first Mormon president? The New England Republican who might make it so.

By Jonathan Darman

Dec. 25, 2006 - Jan. 1, 2007 issue - In late October, departing
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney huddled with a godly group. Gathered in
his kitchen were 15 of the country's leading evangelicals, including
giants like Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Richard Land of the
Southern Baptist Convention. They'd come to nibble sandwiches, slurp
soup and quiz Romney on his faith. Why on earth should they support
Romney, a Mormon, in his presidential candidacy in 2008? Richard Lee,
a Baptist minister from Cumming, Ga., got to the heart of the matter.
What did Romney really believe about Jesus Christ? Romney didn't
hesitate. "When I say Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, I realize
that means something different to you than it does to me," he
admitted. But he urged them to remember their shared beliefs: the
faith that Christ was born of a virgin, was crucified and rose after
three days. The ministers were pleased. "So you're really a Baptist?"
Lee cracked.

Romney, an unannounced but eager candidate for the Republican
nomination, is hoping other evangelicals will have trouble telling the
difference. With the Iowa caucuses only a year away, he is working
tirelessly for the support of Christian conservatives. In another
year, this might be a futile quest given many evangelicals' conviction
that Mormonism is a heretical cult. (Unlike evangelicals, Mormons
believe Jesus appeared in America after his resurrection and that God
himself was once a man.) And the recent resurfacing of a letter Romney
wrote expressing solidarity with gay-rights groups has many social
conservatives wondering if a governor from Massachusetts is "700 Club"

But then there are the alternatives. GOP front runners John McCain and
Rudy Giuliani are not beloved by the religious right. Arkansas Gov.
Mike Huckabee and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback speak the language of
evangelicals but have negligible name recognition nationwide. Some
Christian conservatives have watched Romney's passionate opposition to
gay marriage in Massachusetts and concluded he may be the one
electable candidate who shares their principles in public and private
life. "In terms of values," says Mark DeMoss, a Christian media
strategist who has helped Romney reach out to evangelicals, "I have
more in common with most Mormons than I do with a liberal Southern

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