Mitt Romney at Liberty U.: Conservative evangelicals embrace their man

For months, your servants here in the mainstream media have been trying to figure out whether Mitt Romney’s Mormonism would … Continued

For months, your servants here in the mainstream media have been trying to figure out whether Mitt Romney’s Mormonism would seriously hurt him among white evangelicals. But now that question seems downright odd, as data out this week show Romney with a nearly 50-point advantage over Obama among this group.

The dynamic between evangelicals and Romney will be on display Saturday at Liberty University, a hub of conservative evangelicalism, where Romney will deliver the commencement speech.

Some students at the Lynchburg university founded by Jerry Falwell protested, noting that school textbooks and Southern Baptist doctrine say explicitly that Mormonism contradicts Christian theology.

And there’s no doubt that many politically conservative evangelicals leaned toward other candidates during the primary season. Experts say this is because Romney has shifted his positions over his career on abortion and the rights of same-sex couples, as well as a core discomfort with a faith that teaches that Jesus once appeared in America and that Mormonism is true Christianity.

But the numbers are explicit. The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey released Thursday shows Romney over Obama, 68 percent to 19 percent, among white evangelical Protestants. Among the nearly half who say Romney’s religious beliefs are different from their own, he still holds a 3-to-1 lead over the president.

Despite Obama’s attempts to make inroads among white evangelicals, the data so far look like things haven’t changed much since 2008. That year John McCain won this group by 47 points.

Democrats tried Friday to change the narrative, hosting a news conference with a Democratic student leader from the Lynchburg university.

Yet longtime Liberty-watchers say the issue is more political than religious. Last year’s commencement was also delivered by a Mormon — talk show host Glenn Beck. And the year before the commencement speech was given by Jewish actor and writer Ben Stein.

“In general, students expect a commitment to conservative politics despite the theology of its spokespersons,” said Jonathan Merritt, a Liberty graduate whose father once headed the Southern Baptist Convention.

Religious Right Now: What conservatives want from Romney speech.

  • Skepticalone

    Conservative Christians will get in bed with the devil if he would endorse their stupidity and intolerance just as they would endorse Hitler if he came out as a Conservative Republican. Hyprocrisy is their drug of choice. There may be millions of so-called Evangalical Christians but you could count the number that know and understand Jesus on one hand.

  • twigmuffin

    I nominate Ben Affleck to star in the movie about Mitt Romney’s life. I can totally see Ben Affleck playing the wild and crazy young Mitt Romney during his prep school days then later playing the older Mitt for the scene when he puts the dog on the roof.

  • persiflage

    Excellent choice! I wonder if he gave the dog a haircut before the 12 hour joyride. The man obviously is gifted with a pair of scissors.

  • geotyp

    Romney can afford to speak on family values. His record is stellar. Married to the same woman almost 50 years, not an adulterer and strong moral compass. Couple that with supporting his wife with breast cancer (Hello, Edwards) and assisting with the MS issues, good guy.

  • catatonicjones

    What other choice have the evangelicals got? With Bush, with Santorum, they at least had the feeling they could ‘positively’ influence the candidate to cater to their demands. With Romney all they have is the threat to withhold support.
    For that matter, what choice does Romney have? Without the religious fanatics on his side he doesn’t stand a chance to win this election. Romney is selling his mormon soul to a bunch of people who call his religion a cult.

    What other parts of Romney are for sale?

  • catatonicjones

    I don’t see it that way. These people are following their jesus-god, their all-consuming hatred of others may or may not exist without this creature, but with it that hatred is given permission. Even the ‘good ones’ will practice it.

  • Tomwe

    Mr. Romney appears to embrace the Evangelicals and their interpretation of the Bible. However, speaking about something which is very central to his life, his own religion, is not done. As a higher member of his own church, he would do well to heed some of the words of his own holy book:

    “They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart because in their pride, they are puffed up”

    2 Nephi 28:14 – Book of Mormon.

    Wonder if Mitt remembered that as he and 5 others assaulted the kid in high school?

  • Tomwe

    He would wield the implement for the traditional budget-cutting of the poor.

  • roadsmerry

    It seems to me, from what I have read of Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith and the history of Liberty University, that the organizations have a shared history of racism and denigration of non-Caucasians and are opposed to women in any sort of position of authority. The leaders of both the Mormon Church and Liberty University are still very white and very male.

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