Romney: Don’t Expect a Second Speech on Faith

Buoyed by recent polls showing that Bachmann, Paul, and Perry may be splitting the state’s evangelical conservative voters (and paying no mind to Herman Cain’s 7-point advantage), Mitt Romney headed back to Iowa last weekend, a state where he experienced a stinging second-place finish to Mike Huckabee in 2008.

Religion played a role in the GOP Iowa caucuses in 2008, where Huckabee successfully mobilized evangelical Christians, in part by highlighting sensational aspects of Mormon doctrine.

But speaking at the Chamber of Commerce in Council Bluffs, Iowa, when a voter asked Romney if he would correct “misinformation” about Mormonism spread by his opponents, Romney replied with a “no.” “Among the things that are unique and exceptional about our country is the fact that in America we recognize and appreciate differences in faith. We expect religious differences. I am shaped by the Judeo-Christian values which I have and I hope those will hold me in good stead, as they have so far,” Romney said.

Council Bluffs, by the way, was the major point of embarkation for the migration of Mormon pioneers across the plains to Utah from 1847 through the 1850s.

But if his ancestors once struck out boldly from Council Bluffs, candidate Romney’s remarks there last week plot a far more cautious path to the nomination, once which avoids the issue of Mormonism as much as possible—if not completely.

Criticism, ridicule, antipathy and antagonism towards Mormonism that has come out into the open during the last few weeks will surely intensify as the race continues. But Romney is not the right guy to address it. Candid communication about thorny personal matters? Not a strong suit. His 2007 speech on religion was nearly a non-event then and is now a distant memory. For its part, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is studiously avoiding any contact with or comment on the presidential race, continuing instead with its multi-city, multimedia “I’m a Mormon” rebranding campaign.

Who’s going to handle Romney’s Mormon issues? Does the campaign need surrogates who can strike back on the religion issue?

Or will all of this religion hubbub fade into the background when America comes to terms with the truly sinisterer side of candidate Romney: his career as a job-destroying corporate takeover artist and chop-shop boss, as detailed in Benjamin Wallace-Wells New York Magazine cover story on Romney’s Bain consulting years?