It is no secret that Mitt Romney's Mormonism has so far served as a liability rather than an asset with important segments of the Republican electorate.
According to a Pew poll, 36 percent of evangelicals say that they are less likely to vote for a candidate who is a Mormon (compared to 25 percent of all Americans). Republicans know that this kind of evangelical resistance must be overcome in order to win a presidential election.
In a speech this morning at the George H. W. Bush Library, Mitt Romney tried to put voters' fears to rest. He declared that the authority of the Latter-Day Saints leadership was restricted to church matters. He promised that he would "put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law."
"When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office," Romney continued, "that oath becomes my highest promise to God."
Will such assurances in this morning's speech change voter unease?
Let's begin by saying that Romney said a number of things that should be welcomed by evangelicals.
First, he criticized candidates who distance themselves from their religion when it becomes politically expedient. After promising, "I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law," Romney resisted those who would want him to put distance between himself and his faith. "That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathersI will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers ...1