'The Donald,' Mitt Romney and the Mormonism Factor
Mitt Romney has never experienced a blazing N.Y. Post headline the way Donald Trump has: “Best Sex I Ever Had!” (Marla Maples’ revelation about Trump when he was married to Ivana).
Trump would unceremoniously dump the pretty Marla and baby Tiffany. The larger-than-life TV personality, beauty contest promoter, real estate developer and casino operator is today’s tea party sweetheart. This to the chagrin of the squeaky-clean Romney, whose wife and kids, at least, consider him the GOP front-runner.
Donald is the unabashed huckster. If you could buy him for what he’s really worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth, you’d make a fortune. His pathetic attack on Obama’s place-of-birth legitimacy, which backfired disastrously for him, showed just how low he’d stoop to gain the elephant’s nod.
Romney has had a solid business career, a record of public service as the head of the troubled 2002 Salt Lake City U.S. Olympic Committee, and as Massachusetts governor. His reputation for honesty and marital fidelity is unimpeachable. Yet Romney lacks Trump’s pizzazz in an age of celebrity and glitz. Where Trump turns on a crowd, Romney puts it to sleep.
The 2012 election could resemble a Barry Goldwater-Lyndon Johnson rerun — a died-in-the-wool conservative vs. a liberal incumbent who’s inherited an unpopular war.
Goldwater was a distinguished American. His 1963 acceptance line — “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue” — sparked a disastrous campaign. Barry ran further to the right than anyone since Herbert Hoover. If Romney or Trump is nominated, expect the tea party to demand campaign stands much further to the right than Goldwater’s.
For Romney to prevail in early primaries and caucuses where the far right dominates, he must avoid positions so extreme that he turns off moderates needed in the general election. It’s a daunting task.
He’s accused of apostasy for creating a Massachusetts health care plan, which tea partiers consider too much like “Obamacare.” Women who believe in a constitutional right to privacy are offended that Romney, who supported abortion rights in liberal Massachusetts, is now cynically pro-life.
Romney reminds me of George H.W. Bush, who tried to be “one of the guys” yet always failed in the attempt. Bush had been around the GOP so long that the party finally gave him the nomination rather than watch a grown man cry.
Assuming Mitt overcomes the nastiness of a primary fight (and Trump can be nasty), then he must take on the Mormon-haters. Romney has been uncomfortable discussing church tenets. When a TV questioner asked if the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, Romney bristled, referring the answer to church leaders.
In liberal Massachusetts, he overcame anti-Mormon sentiments. But liberal Massachusetts is hardly the Bible Belt, where many Christian fundamentalists consider Mormonism an illegitimate cult. Recent pronouncements by the Catholic and United Methodist churches that Mormon converts must be rebaptized may convince skeptics that Mormonism is not a Christian denomination.
African-American voters, who research the Book of Mormon may be offended to learn how they’ve been characterized and denigrated by the Church of Latter Day Saints since its earliest days. But their votes are easily safe for Obama.
On the positive side, members of Mitt’s church are expected to “move heaven and earth” for him. As the Catholics did for Kennedy, Romney’s co-religionists will support this former Mormon bishop. Enthusiastic Mormon volunteers’ influence in early primaries should be impressive.
If the election is ultimately between Obama and Romney, I predict religion won’t be touched upon by the candidates. Romney hardly wants to discuss whether or not Adam worshiped at an altar in a western Missouri wood, as Joseph Smith claimed was revealed to him. Obama surely won’t wish to revisit his relationship with his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.
In such a presidential race, America will have two patriotic candidates who are well-informed, politically experienced, intelligent, pragmatic and deserving of voters’ attention and respect. Donald Trump isn’t in their league.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.
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