In today's speech on faith in America, Mitt Romney delivered this remark: "Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."
He had us confused for a moment. Was Romney admitting he was unelectable? That the American people wouldn't accommodate his change of heart on abortion?
Nah. He was talking about religious beliefs, not social-policy stances. But, in many ways, that statement is the crux of Romney's Mormon dilemma. People don't question his belief in Mormonism; they're skittish about his Mormon beliefs.
Romney didn't calm anybody's nerves during his speech—he said the word Mormon only once. ("I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it.") He didn't want to make the address a comparative religion lecture, and for good reason. But hesitant members of the religious right heard that Romney was a religious man, not necessarily that he was a traditionally Christian man. It's unclear whether that will be enough.
Romney was wise to emphasize his unyielding belief in his religion, Jesus, and God.
His resolute Mormonism allows him to say he has drawn from the same moral reservoir throughout his life. During the speech, Romney said, "These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor." That's an important counterattack for when his opponents chide him for flip-flopping on morality-laced social issues.
The goal of Romney's campaign is to prove to voters that he has constants in his life—that he is not just a "believer of convenience." The speech's goal was to prove that he has never "jettisoned his beliefs," that his morals have always come from God. Now that the speech is over, the question becomes: Will Romney gain the presidency?