Does Mitt Romney’s Mormonism matter in his quest for the GOP nomination? Michael Gerson says no:
Romney’s faith should not matter. Presidents are elected for their policy views, leadership skills and character, not their soteriology. Such theological convictions about salvation may be infinitely important, but they are politically irrelevant. The whole “no religious test for office” idea remains a good one.
I think there is a little bit of overstatement here. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario in which theological convictions might impact our evaluation of a person’s fitness for office. If a candidate’s religion teaches that killing infidels is a sure path to eternal life, then I would say that candidate’s soteriology probably matters—no matter what his views are on balancing the federal budget. Thankfully, that is not what we are dealing with in this election cycle (and hopefully we never will).
Gerson is right, however, about evangelical misgivings about Mormonism. And those misgivings are not going away any time soon. But Romney’s biggest problem with religious conservatives is not his Mormonism. His biggest problem is that he was a pro-choice social liberal right up until the time he decided to run for national office. At some point after deciding he wanted to be president—Presto!—he became pro-life. No matter how you cut it, it just smells really fishy. And pro-life voters don’t like fishy when it comes to the life issue.
Does Romney’s Mormonism matter? Sure. Is it the definitive issue for evangelical voters? If Kumbaya moments with Glenn Beck over the last year are any indication, I think probably not.