Is the real Mitt Romney about to stand up?
- 20 August 2012
- From the section US & Canada
There has long been an argument that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is hobbled because he will not be himself, will not tell his best stories. That might be about to change.
The theory goes that we never see the real passion - let alone the warm, funny, generous individual his friends and family talk about.
He seems inauthentic because he avoids talking about the commitment at the core of his life - his religious faith.
Most American politicians would be gleeful if their faith handed them such a rich narrative on a plate.
They would delight in telling the story of an ancestor leaving England for the New World, inspired by a new faith.
They never tire of talking about the tale of their grand-daddy, forced by persecution, to go on the run in the badlands of the Wild West and flee to Mexico.
We would never hear the end of the awe-inspiring tale of the devout father, finding the courage to stand up and argue successfully that racist doctrine should be stripped from his church - let alone their own commitment to their community.
But for Mr Romney there is a snag. He has never told these stories because his church is that of the Latter Day Saints - or Mormons.
Some consider what he believes off-putting: that in 19th Century rural New York state, an angel handed down a new revelation, written on tablets of gold.
These taught that after his resurrection, Jesus Christ came to America and that the new promised land would be built in the US.
Mormons are also taught that Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel, one branch cursed with dark skin for their sin, and that all humans have the potential to become godlike.
It is not just that Mr Romney could be damaged by some perception that this is all a bit strange. There is a specific worry that it could damage his standing with a core group of Republican voters - Evangelical Christians.
Many do not think Mormonism is just another branch of Christianity - to them it is not Christian at all and a lot of them are reluctant to vote for a president who is not Christian.
But there are signs that Mr Romney will take a risk and is about to embrace his faith as part of the campaign.
My suspicion is these are nods to the inevitable, a passing tactic rather than a new strategy.
In the US it can be seen as more than impolite to question religious-based beliefs. Many on the right see it as unconstitutional, many on the left as illiberal.
But there will now be more of a debate about how America would feel about having a Mormon president.