Alan Wolfe is a noted scholar, but his political analysis is off. Here’s the Boston Globe:
After months of debate within his campaign organization, Mitt Romney has decided to give a speech addressing his Mormon faith, a potentially pivotal step that reflects the surging candidacy of Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist preacher who has been promoting himself explicitly as a Christian leader.
Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman, said yesterday that Romney would give the speech titled “Faith in America” on Thursday at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.
“This speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation, and how the governor’s own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected,” Madden said in a statement. “Governor Romney understands that faith is an important issue to many Americans, and he personally feels this moment is the right moment for him to share his views with the nation.”
The biggest historical precedent for Romney’s decision is the speech that John F. Kennedy delivered before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association during the 1960 presidential campaign. Kennedy sought in the speech to allay concerns among voters about his Catholicism.
Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, said the decision by Romney is in response to gains being made by Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor.
“There’s only one reason for it – Huckabee,” Wolfe said. “Huckabee is pulling ahead of him in Iowa, so that, I’m sure, forced his hand.”
Look, I’m not a campaign insider. But I think it’s bogus to assert that the reason for Governor Romney’s upcoming speech is a rival’s poll numbers. Rather, it’s the fact that a rival appears to be running an overtly sectarian campaign — something that is just not good for America.
Think about it. One of the fears some evangelicals have expressed is that electing Governor Romney would “validate” or “endorse” Mormonism. But how many pains has he taken to point out that he’s not running as “the Mormon candidate” — and therefore that a vote for him is not a vote for his religion? Answer: so many that the (incorrect) media line is that he’s afraid to talk about his faith.
But now we have an evangelical who appears to be running as “the Christian candidate.” That strikes me as kind of notable, probably meriting some type of analysis.