Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Romney's last stop here in Iowa was at a house party in Cedar Rapids hosted by the Iowa Christian Alliance (formerly affiliated with the Christian Coalition).
I took my wife to the party and we arrived a little late to find that it was difficult to make our way into the house. The crowd far overwhelmed the capacity of the moderately-sized home.
Of course, Romney was the headliner, but Lt. Gov candidate Bob Vander Plaats (also pictured--running with gubernatorial hopeful Jim Nussle) was present and seemed like a dynamic and capable individual.
Romney's comments to the group focused on keeping America strong in a changing international landscape. He touched on the threat of the Jihadists around the world and how we must stay proactive against this real and imminent threat (he also mentioned that he had been at the Cedar Rapids Gazette where they had a workshop with middle-eastern journalists in teaching them how to adjust to reporting in a "free-speech" climate. He talked about the threat of Aisa's educational & economic emergence onto the world scene and how he believes that Americans are hardworking and innovative people who will overcome these challenges. He also confirmed his strong opposition to gay marriage, the creation of embryos for research purposes, and abortion.
Then came the reference to Ezra Zilkha (see in a previous blog)
He then introduced Ann who was quite impressive. An article from a few months ago touted the beneficial effect that Ann could have on Mitt's candidacy. I must say that I strongly agree--Teresa Heinz she IS NOT. Ann expressed her impression that she was among friends and "good people" here in Iowa. She states that their hectic schedule is not difficult on her because of the energy and excitement of those she meets on a daily basis--that she taps into and feeds off of this infectious energy from the people she encounters. She also mentioned that both she and Mitt have agreed that despite all that they have accomplished and all that they may accomplish, their greatest ongoing achievement has been a wonderful marriage and raising their five sons.
The question session then began. There was a reminder to keep all questions "tactful." Despite the "tease" from Hotline (above) , there was absolutely no "grilling" of Gov. Romney (indeed, he seems so cool and collected, I'm not sure he could get "grilled" so to say) The only question regarding religion was raised by yours truly (but more on that in a minute).
My comment to the crowd as a segue into my question for Gov. Romney drew the biggest laugh of the night. One man asked Romney why he was against ethanol (alternative fuel topic being huge here in Iowa as a major potential source of the stuff) Mitt politely mentioned that he must have heard an incorrect rumor because he's all for the development of alternative fuel and energy sources . . . Including ethanol. My comment to the group was that the rumor of Gov. Romney being against ethanol must have come from the fact that he's Mormon and therefore does not imbibe the stuff. Through the laughter Gov. Romney said: "That's right, I don't drink ethanol . . . I put it in the tank where it belongs"
That was a nice segue into my question which started with the comment that prominent journalists, including Novak, had heard that many Evangelical "would never vote for a Mormon" and that strong whisper campaigns would develop against his bid. I asked him if he decided to run for the presidency, what kind of impact he thought that might have.
His answer included a reference to Article 6 about the religious test as well as a reference to the quote from Abraham Lincoln stating the duty of the President in regards to religious matters. While I knew Romney's answer beforehand, I asked the question for two reasons. 1) To inform my non-LDS friend among the Christian right that they should be alerted to possible "whisper campaigns" and see them for what the are, and 2) To let this audience hear Romney's convincing answer to this ever-plaguing questions.
The question session ended and the photo-ops with state and local politicians began. While this was going on, I spoke with one of his local "point people" working for a private firm in Des Moines to help coordinate his visits to Iowa (if you're reading this, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org ). She said that this amazing reaction he's been getting has been par for the course on his Iowa stops and that he's generating a lot of "buzz" amongst the locals.
As I was waiting in line to speak with and get a picture with Gov. Romney one of his guards came up and said that they had to leave immediately to catch their plane. It truly seemed that Mitt and Ann felt bad that they couldn't stay and talk longer . . . but off they went. Despite their hurried rush, Mitt opened Ann's car door for her before closing it going around to get in the other side. Nice to see that chivalry is not dead.