Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hewitt's Straw Poll, Part II: The Romney Factor

In my opinion, the single most important result of Hugh Hewitt's Thanksgiving Straw Poll was Mitt Romney's showing.
Some things to think about:
If Mitt runs for president, it is going to be a very, very edgy primary. He is very sharp and has by far the most credibility on fiscal issues. Just look at his track record in business, with the Olympics, and with the budget in Massachussetts. The guy is amazing, especially on an issue where most Americans feel the Republican Party has deeply failed them for the past few years.

In the Primaries, where things usually get pretty nasty, someone might be tempted to bring up Romney's (and my) religion. The problem is, if any Republican primary candidate makes our religion a negative issue in an attempt to discredit Romney, that will be suicide in the general election(Scroll down). There are 7 or 8 states that absolutely swing Democratic if the Mormons stay home, let alone if some of us vote for a Democrat. And if our religion is made into a negative issue, all the Democratic candidate has to do is come and speak at BYU, hold town hall meetings in Utah, and publicly deplore the Republicans' unbelievable lack of religious tolerance for a group that has been so loyal for so long. That would be good enough to sway a lot of people and, ultimately, Mormon swing states.

Now, here's where I give Mitt some very direct advice going forward. Let's take the issues one by one, and here are my suggested policy responses and talking points (Don't mistake these quotes for Mitt's words; these are only my suggested responses!):

1) Mormonism.
"Do you have a specific concern about my religion?" (I love that one; it puts the interviewer in the position of having to articulate feelings that can easily be characterized as religious prejudice.)

"Are you uncomfortable with my believing in aspects of my religion that deal with the supernatural? If so, you might want to look at statistics that show how many Americans believe in prayer, divine intervention, angels, the divinity of Christ, and so forth. I have my reasons for believing what I believe, and I'm not going to go too much into these things because they are very personal. I feel that my religious beliefs are worthy of respect, and likewise, I respect other people's right to disagree with me on matters of faith. Religious diversity and tolerance are some of America's most precious founding principles, and a significant reason for our success as a nation."

"Would my policy views be dictated by the president of my Church? We have a very good precedent in other LDS policymakers, such as Orrin Hatch, Robert, Bennett, and Harry Reid. Their policy views demonstrate a remarkable amount of diversity and pluralistic thinking. So the answer is, no, I would not be beholden to anyone in matters of ideology or policy. I would execute the office of President according to my conscience alone, while giving a listening ear to the full spectrum of people's views."

"Are you uncomfortable with aspects of my Church's history? Guess what- I am too! There are a lot of things that I find perplexing and I can't say I have been able to reconcile them all. My religion was built by people in frontier America, and so there were many times where that worldview was reflected in things they said and did. I think we have done a good job of clarifying a lot of issues over the years, but if you're looking for someone who claims he has all the answers, that's not me. I have many more questions than I have answers, when it comes to religious things. But the answers I do have, I am very grateful for. They have helped me tremendously in living a rewarding life and giving me perspective in hard times."

2) The Deficit.
"I have by far the most complete track record of any candidate on this issue. I know how to bring runaway budgets under control, and there is no more runaway budget presently than our Federal budget. If you want pledges and promises and goals that are not achieved, that's one thing. But if you want results in the form of a balanced budget and our federal deficit being actually paid down as it was in the nineties, I am the only one here who can approach the task with credibility and a strong record of success in fiscal policy."

3) National Security
"The previous administration brought about a watershed moment in the history of the world by giving Democracy an opportunity to take root in the Middle East. My goal is to continue to facilitate those efforts, because they are instrumental in bringing about the ideological and structural changes we need to see in that region in order to make the world more secure.
But those efforts by themselves are inadequate. We need to provide incentives to the free market for developing sources of energy that drain the funding to terrorist states, and we need to urgently, urgently take much more comprehensive measures to eliminate the possibility of terrorists comong through our borders. I am willing to explore the idea of moving a significant amount of our already-existing military resources and training exercises to areas of our borders that are most in need of this additional security."

4) Abortion.
"Some people have criticized my position on abortion as being a flip-flop, or inconsistent in some way. I am most definitely pro-life; I think abortion is an awful moral tragedy and a reprehensible stain on our national conscience. But I think legalism is very inadequate as a remedy for this problem, and I would like to see more emphasis being placed on moral teaching, not simply getting certain laws passed or overturned. I believe we can do more to prevent abortions by making a heart-felt, articulate, thoughtful case to the American public for the morality and rightness of choosing to carry babies to term and give them up for adoption, rather than form picket lines, threaten violence, and yell insults at people.

Similarly, if we are relentless in the effort to legislate ahead of people's moral understanding, there will be a backlash that will reinforce bad behavior and work against our cause in the long run. Our cause is much better served when we focus more on helping people to understand the moral implications of this choice, and offering a tremendous amount of compassion and support for the alternatives, such as marriage or adoption. Legislation is definitely important, but as with many issues, education very important, and timing is absolutely critical."

Anyway, I'm looking forward to more news from the Romney camp. Honestly, who has more credibility on fiscal issues? And those are the issues (along with borders) that are dividing the Republican Party right now. As for these other issues, I don't think they are deal-breakers, if they are articulated well.


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