Romney could have easily hurt himself with this speech, but at the very least he’s no worse off than he was before—and now that he’s delivered a speech that shows real passion, I have a feeling it will give him a decent boost. Perhaps not enough to keep Huckabee from winning in Iowa, but enough to keep him in the race.
His rhetoric was excellent, and I also appreciated his metaphor of the loss of Europe’s Christian heritage and the rise of radical Islam. However, the part that really got to me was the end:
Recall the early days of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, during the fall of 1774. With Boston occupied by British troops, there were rumors of imminent hostilities and fears of an impending war. In this time of peril, someone suggested that they pray. But there were objections. “They were too divided in religious sentiments,” what with Episcopalians and Quakers, Anabaptists and Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Catholics.
Then Sam Adams rose, and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot.
And so together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the grace of God … they founded this great nation.
I have to admit, in terms of American political rhetoric, I think that part of Romney’s speech was the best of 2007 by a long shot. It was delivered with real passion and conviction, and the message was strong: religious convictions do matter, but they matter in terms of the common principles we all share. There will be those whose theological differences with the Latter-Day Saints will never allow them to support a Mormon for public office—and while I find that attitude perilously close to requiring a religious test for office, there is nothing in the Constitution which prevents individual voters from exercising their individual consciences in picking a Presidential candidate. However, for those wondering just how Romney’s faith will or will not influence his job as a President got their answer.
Romney did exclude atheists and agnostics from his speech, which was a notable and lamentable omission. Still, they’re not the audience that Romney is going for at this point in the race. He’ll have to recognize those groups later and more fully explain how they fit into his vision of America, but that is a task for another day. This was a speech that was directly primarily at Evangelical Christians, and Romney spoke convincingly to his intended audience in language they could understand and appreciate.
In the end, I don’t think Romney will get the nomination, and if he loses Iowa I think he’ll be sunk. Still, today’s speech was a masterwork of American rhetoric, a great speech about our shared values as a society, and it was delivered very well. This was Romney at his best, and he looked and sounded like someone who could do justice to the Office of President. It may not be enough to win the race, but it’s still a speech that will be remembered as one of the best political addresses of the year and perhaps one of the better ones of our times.