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Wednesday, February 21, 2007
posted by Justin Hart | 6:52 AM | permalink

Mitt Romney didn't use a PowerPoint presentation to announce his campaign for president, but the Harvard MBA's acumen was sharp as ever. Romney chose to make his announcement in his native Michigan, where his family name is revered, avoiding his home state of Massachusetts, which these days serves him better as a punch line than a launching pad.

Like the successful venture capitalist he is, Romney shops around for opportunities, making strategic investments in the offices, policies, and states that best serve his ambitions. ..

An Excellent President [Larry Kudlow]

Investors Business Daily ran a terrific piece last week featuring Calvin Coolidge, who happens to be one of my favorite presidents besides Ronald Reagan.

Coolidge was a highly popular president during the 1920s boom. He assumed the presidency in 1923 following Warren Harding's death, won a landslide in 1924, then chose not to run again in 1928, despite what looked like certain victory.

He was a pro-business, tax cutting, supply-sider who believed in limited government regulation.

Coolidge also stressed religious values, though not necessarily religion. He cleaned up after Harding's Teapot Dome mess, as well as other scandals.

While Governor of Massachusetts, he fired police union leaders who illegally went on strike (brings to mind Reagan and the air traffic controllers).

The IBD article goes on to note that Coolidge was media savvy and used radio quite effectively. He was also an impressive figure at press conferences, and had two key PR advisors from Madison Avenue.

Right at the beginning of President Reagan's term in 1981, the Gipper hung the Coolidge portrait in the Cabinet room. I've always been a big admirer of Coolidge, as well as his supply side Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon.

Liberal historians have treated him poorly down through the years, but Coolidge was an excellent president.

Bravo to IBD for running the profile over Presidents Day weekend.

“The Talented Mr. Romney” [Rich Lowry]

Richard Cohen has some fun with Romney's flip-flops here.

It seems clear to me that Romney is a pretty conservative guy, who for political expediency's sake tacked left in Massachusetts and now for the same reason is tacking right—although this latest tack is probably more consistent with what he really believes. If Romney had made his career pretty much anywhere else but in Massachusetts, he wouldn't be having this problem.

A couple of (uncommitted in '08) friends have made good points about Romney lately. One was telling me the other day that Romney is the victim of the rules changing. It used to be that it was expected that Republicans would become more conservative when they ran for the nomination, and conservatives would welcome it. But Romney has changed on so much so recently, in the age of YouTube and especially against the back-drop of the recent assault on Kerry's flip-flops, that he's getting hammered.

Another friend, on the other hand, pointed out that conservatives usually don't run national races on just being conservative. They bring a flavor and a spin to their conservatism. It isn't a check-the-box exercise. They apply their conservatism to the problems of the day and come up with their own variety—Bush, Newt, and Reagan all did this. Romney hasn't yet. He's just collected a bunch of conservative positions, and is running on the theme of competitiveness. That risks seeming a lot like Bob Dole's "I can be Ronald Reagan if you want me to be."

But it's early, and there's plenty of time for all the candidates to grow (or shrink).

Okay, I too have evolved on certain aspects of the abortion issue -- late-term abortion, for instance -- but a total flip from always legal to always illegal (the clear message he's sending abortion foes) can have only one explanation: Potomac fever.
When you read A Mormon In The White House you'll understand that the furious pace being set by the Romney campaign will not let up, will be fully financed, and continue to innovate both as to methods and as to timing until the nomination is decided.
ABC has now conferred with a religious spokesman for purposes of challenging a public figure on his religious beliefs. Should we expect to see ABC challenge pro-choice and pro-gay rights Christians and Jews with statements from spokesmen from their respective faiths? Will ABC challenge Muslim guests with statements from Islamic experts? Or does ABC limit its theological challenges exclusively to Mormons?
The answer is probably both a double standard, and more media addressing candidates' religion. Barack Obama's church and pastor have attracted attention, and there was a debunked story that he had attended a radical madrassa in Jakarta. Religion and politics overlap these days, as they often have in the past. And particularly when lesser-understood faiths are in question, people want to know more. Religion is important.

If Romney does well, and especially if he were to become the nominee, his faith's doctrines are going to be of compelling interest to many people. The media are not what they used to be, and there is no bottling up of issues as off-limits. The story can't be done justice in an interview gotcha game.

Stephanopoulos as theologian just does not sell, even though his father was a Greek Orthodox prelate. His ham-handed I had my staff call somebody retort is not a convincing claim to scriptural mastery. I would guess the story is more complicated. That doesn't mean the topic is going to be off limits.

Romney has put the subject in play by addressing it in public. And people are interested, for reasons good, bad and ugly. So expect more attention to the Latter Day Saints.

There's a Mormon in the House! [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

When was the last time a presidential candidate was pressed to explain his theology on morning TV? Here's Stephanopolous vs. Romney on the Latter-Day New Jerusalem.

These are going to continue to come up. But when was the last time a Catholic (John Kerry? Ted Kennedy?) was asked by a mainstream reporter: "You believe you receive the body and blood of Christ during Communion. Do you consider yourself a cannibal?..." I don't think theology-related questions should be off limits (and how candidates respond to odd questions is always revealing, frankly...), but it's a curious thing to watch. Undergarments (which he's been asked about too ) aren't exactly issues I need to hear a presidential candidate expound on.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan says Romney is a "bigot" for saying belief in God is something we ought to look for in a president (back to the Villages). I think a lot of Americans would have a problem voting for someone who wasn't grounded in some kind of faith in God for president. You don't have to say that Jesus is your favorite philosopher (been there done that!), but knowing a man who would have to continue this war and hold the burdens of the nation and the free world on his shoulders had no trust in something greater than politics (among other things) would be something that could (and should) legitimately concern people. I think that's actually a practical consideration. That doesn't strike me as the same as simply refusing to consider a Mormon, Jew, Muslim, Catholic, etc... "In God We Trust" — do you buy that? I'd like to know that — in whatever way that shakes out fine — that you do trust in Him. You may think my theology is weird and I may not buy yours, but we share a common principle, and that's relevant and important enough to put on our money.

I have no doubt that Romney — a former sucessful businessman — has worked with and hired, atheists and agnostics — he lives and works in the same world we all do. But he thinks a president ought to believe it God. You can disagree — but his comment doesn't strike me as someone looking to establish a test, but positing a practical consideration, and being upfront about who he is and what he has in common with a whole lot of voters.

Romney or McCain?

As a pro-life voter, who would you vote for? John McCain or Mitt Romney? Send an email and vote here. Now, don't send me something like "Neither one, Brownback is my guy." That isn't the question. I'm curious as to who you view as the candidate that will best represent the pro-life movement. (between Romney and McCain)

Now, having said that, I won't lay out the case for either one of them in this space. But I want to share with you an interesting quote today from the Reverend Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council. He's well known within Washington DC. He's very outspoken on the life issue and is part of a network of pro-life grassroots groups that lobby Congress and The White House on policy. He was in Orlando these last few days at the National Religious Broadcasters convention and had this to say after meeting with both McCain and Romney:

"I was able to get a read of these two men away from the cameras, the reporters and rah-rah audiences. These were honest, candid dialogues on critically important aspects of Governor Romney's and Senator McCain's personal and political principles. We got a pretty good assessment of where they are on the key issues for traditional Christians and particularly for Evangelicals. I was impressed by both, but especially Mitt Romney."

You can read the entire article here. Schenck is not the first Evangelical leader to say something like this. Privately, Evangelical leaders are giving Romney a serious look. As for McCain, it helped him this weekend when he said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned." But Tony Perkins with Family Research Council Action had this to say after McCain's statement:

"The Senator will have another chance to show his convictions on life issues since a vote on expanding funds for embryonic stem cell research is imminent."

Perkins knows McCain supports embryonic stem cell research, something pro-lifers by and large do not support. So clearly, Perkins was laying down a marker. McCain may have a 20 year pro-life record but he seems like he can't buy a break.

Mitt Snit [John Podhoretz]

Considering that Mitt Romney has actually now gone negative — or his "conservative outreach advisor" has on his behalf — we could be seeing an amazing phenomenon in this accelerating campaign season. Romney comes out of nowhere to rise into the first tier of candidates, raises $6 million in a night, gives a bad speech in his maiden appearance in the right-wing big leagues, chickens out on spelling out a firm position on Iraq, gets tagged as a flip-flopper, loses steam, goes up on the air with an ad to shore up his declining support, and starts frontally attacking other candidates to bring up their negatives.

And all this in three months! Sic transit gloria mundi.

Re: It Takes a Mormon [John Podhoretz]

Hey, I love Mormons. They're the only people on earth who consider me a Gentile!

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mymanmitt people please include this in your list:

I'm fairly certain John Podhoretz stole that line from Michael Medved. To further that, I *am* certain that I've heard Michael Medved say that quite a while ago. Plagiarism? :)

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