Two Ways of Looking at a Romney

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Ron Fournier, focusing on the politics:

“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.

“The Romney strategy with the speech appeared to be to try to kill two birds with one stone — to placate voters who are apprehensive about him as a Mormon or as a flip-flopper,” said Costas Panagopoulos, a political scientist at Fordham University.

“But I am not convinced he was successful in doing either,” Panagopoulos said. “At the end of the day, it is very difficult to change voters’ pre-existing beliefs, and it would probably take a much more powerful speech than the one Romney delivered today.”

It also may take more speeches.

John Dickerson, focusing on theology (among other things):

Romney mounted a defense of religion in the public square—on his terms, which became clear when he started talking about Jesus. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind,” he said, but then he quickly closed the door to further questioning about any of his specific beliefs. He argued that Mormonism was merely a different brand of Christianity and that to pick at the differences between Mormons and other faiths was incompatible with America’s history of religious tolerance.

Some evangelicals won’t like this. Why does Romney get to show them some of his doctrinal beliefs while shutting off discussion of the others? He wants credit for saying Jesus was the Son of God but doesn’t want to answer for the other ways many Mormons see Jesus. This is not just a quibble, as Romney seemed to suggest. This is evangelicals’ fundamental question about Mormonism. Christians see Jesus as the literal incarnation of God. (The doctrine of the Trinity states that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all God.) Mormons see Jesus as literally the son of a God, but also as a separate God, just as the Holy Spirit is separate. For those who focus on these differences, Romney’s argument that Mormonism belongs within the Christian fold is a shocking theological claim that can’t go unanswered.