… and it’s about freaking time!
Voters, media, and some advisers have been poking and prodding at him to do this for months. Ever since he came into this race, he has been constantly questioned about his LDS faith. Imagine being him; everyday a new attack, a new ornery attitude. I’m sure there were days where time after time he was confronted with the “mormon” question. If I were Mitt, I be sick of it and would have put the issue to bed months ago.
But the fact that I thought he should have given this speech in August or September is irrelevant. The fact is, he is going to give it now, and here is what he needs to do:
- Manage expectations. The temptation of the media will be to compare this to the John F Kennedy speech. That speech was incredibly historical and brilliant, and in an incredibly appropriate setting: a southern baptist leader’s conference. The Mitt Machine needs to lower expectations that this speech will be anything close to JFK.
- Over-deliver. After successfully managing expectations, Mitt really needs to hit this one out of the park. This is quite possibly the largest single opportunity he’ll have to convince America (at least the ones who aren’t out Christmas shopping) that he is their man.
- Re-think your venue: Why not Iowa? That is where you need to regain your ground anyway.
- Get a large Evangelical endorsement to go with it. A big name standing by his side will certainly help seal the deal.
Above all, Mitt needs to laser focus the content of this speech to the anxieties that voters have toward his religion. :
- Priority A1 is to express that he will not be taking orders, instruction, or even counsel from church leaders regarding the decisions facing the country.
- Priority 2 is to somehow express how his faith will affect his decision making, and how it informs his thinking. A personal anecdote here will go very far. He should tell how his faith informed a decision made while serving as governor or even share an experience from church leadership that is illustrative.
- Priority 3 is to continue to refute and disavow strange religious practices and rumors. No need to explain or defend practices of Mormonism, just express the concept that when it all comes down to it, all belief systems defy logic and understanding. It’s something you feel, rather than know. Tell the voters they shouldn’t punish you for feeling and believing in Jesus Christ as you understand him. This is the old “bear your testimony” tactic. No one can argue it or refute it, cause it’s just how you feel.
Above all, Romney needs to dig deep in his soul for this one. An academic treatment of the subject will suffice (Kennedy’s was debatably a very pragmatic, unemotional approach), but I think an emotional approach will gain you more traction with the actual voters. In short, show us this Mitt.