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Romney Campaign Drops Its "Jew Rule" for 2016

January 28, 2015

As his close friends and advisers tell it, Mitt Romney will put his LDS Church and his leadership role in it at the center any campaign for the White House in 2016. As hotel magnate and fellow Mormon Richard Marriott put it, "Our church tells us clearly that when we are in the service of our fellow man, we are in the service of our God."
If so, Mitt 3.0 will be altogether different than the previous two versions that lost in 2008 and 2012. After all, in his first presidential run, the former LDS bishop and Boston region "stake president" declared, "I'm not a spokesman for my church. If you want to learn about my church, talk to my church." Four years later, his campaign went even further, using its "Jew Rule" to protest coverage of Mitt's Mormon's faith that Team Romney considered unfair or inappropriate.
As Jason Horowitz reported in the Washington Post on June 1, 2012:

"Our test to see if a similar story would be written about others' religion is to substitute 'Jew' or 'Jewish,' " Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in objection to a Washington Post article last fall about the candidate's role as a church leader in Boston.
She pointed out a passage that explained a central tenet of Mormonism. It described the belief that Christ's true church was restored after centuries of apostasy when the 19th-century prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from golden plates that he discovered in Upstate New York.
"Would you write this sentence in describing the Jewish faith?" Saul asked in a November e-mail, adding: " 'Jews believe their prophet Moses was delivered tablets on a mountain top directly from G-d after he appeared to him in a burning bush.' Of course not, yet you reference a similar story in Mormonism."

Of course, as Jeffrey Goldberg documented in "What If Mitt Romney Were Jewish?", Mitt's Jew Rule was ridiculous. Taking Saul up on her test, Goldberg responded that "There's nothing wrong with Saul's compressed description of the moment Jews received God's law, nor is there anything wrong with the Post's description of Mormonism's founding in upstate New York":

Here's one sentence: "Outside the spotlight, Mr. Romney can be demonstrative about his faith: belting out hymns ('What a Friend We Have in Jesus') while horseback riding, fasting on designated days and finding a Mormon congregation to slip into on Sundays, no matter where he is."
And here's a Mad Libs version: "Outside the spotlight, Mr. Romney can be demonstrative about his faith: belting out hymns ('The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Such a Friend!') while playing mahjong, fasting on Yom Kippur (except for possibly some nuts around 4 p.m.) and finding a shul to slip into on Saturdays."

In 2000, that's precisely the kind of coverage Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman received:

A New York Times reporter, Laurie Goodstein, detailed Lieberman's exotic rites at length, in the manner of an anthropologist explaining a previously unknown Amazon tribe: "Many of Mr. Lieberman's most basic religious rituals are intimate acts," the article said. At morning prayer, "the senator lays on tefillin, the small leather boxes that contain four biblical passages written on parchment, binding the boxes to one arm and his forehead with leather straps."

Noting that all faiths have elements which appear strange and mysterious to non-adherents, Goldberg asks, "So what does the Romney camp find so frightening?"
What the Romney camp feared, of course, was the GOP's evangelical base and it powerful distrust of the Mormon Church. In 2008, that voting block helped deny him the Republican nomination. In 2012, the prospect of evangelicals staying at home on Election Day was a chance he could not take.
But for 2016, "47 Percent" Romney wants to shed his indelible image as an out-of-touch private equity parasite whose visceral loathing for lower income Americans won't be easily forgotten. So, Mitt 3.0 will demonstrate his new-found commitment to the common man by stressing his good works--and good humor--in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As the Washington Post reported Tuesday:

If he runs again in 2016, Romney is determined to re-brand himself as authentic, warts and all, and central to that mission is making public what for so long he kept private. He rarely discussed his religious beliefs and practices in his failed 2008 and 2012 races, often confronting suspicion and bigotry with silence as his political consultants urged him to play down his Mormonism.
Now, Romney speaks openly about his service as a lay pastor in the Mormon church; recites Scripture to audiences; muses about salvation and the prophet; urges students to marry young and "have a quiver full of kids"; and even cracks jokes about Joseph Smith's polygamy.

An "authentic" Mitt Romney? That won't sound kosher to most Americans.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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