****First off, Rep. Leach was clear that these words were not to be viewed as "an endorsement" of Romney . . . but they sure aren't damning of Romney and his efforts!***********
"In America, no one should be excluded from leadership based on their faith.Representative Leach is a good and smart man. I have had occasion to speak with him rather in depth on four occasions over the last two months. Leach is a self-proclaimed moderate Republican . . . however, he is the kind of congressman we need since he, has proven again and again, that can keep our district Red when it leans heavily to the blue side. Interestingly, Leach was listed as #10 on the "Top 10 RINOs" by Human Events online (BTW, Romney was listed as #8 on that list . . . Leach seemed very surprised that Romney was on that list at all since he realizes that Mitt is much more conservative than he is. We speculated that it may be the fact that he governs in Massachusetts, or that possibly, some people whose real objection to Romney is his religion would feel more comfortable giving him a label like RINO as a reason to not vote for him/consider him.)
"All individuals should be judged on the timber of their convictions, not the nuances of inter- of intra-faith differences. That is the American way. It is why we Republicans respect, for instance, the Democratic Party for putting forth a Catholic who became a great President, John F. Kennedy. It is why we welcome this evening to Cedar Rapids an extraordinary leader, a man of a minority faith.
"I have watched Gov. Romney from afar, and, on several occasions, up close. His is the kind of leadership the country yearns for. I am confidant Iowans will give him respectful consideration and that he will not let the party and, more importantly, the country down."
Well, on a brighter note, it seems pretty clear that the visible leadership of the Evangelical community will not "blackball" Romney because of his religion. That doesn't surprise me, but recently Jerry Falwell said:
I have no problem voting for a person who is not of my faith as long as he or she stands with me on the moral and social issues. (Massachusetts governor) Mitt Romney may be a candidate for president. He's a Mormon. If he's pro-life, pro-family, I don't think he'll have any problem getting the support of evangelical Christians.Previously, prominent Evangelical leader, Chuck Colson, said something similar:
Someone willing to go on the record was Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship. Notwithstanding his "fundamental" theological differences with Mormonism, Colson said, "I could in very good conscience support Romney," calling him "a first-rate guy in every respect" and "a social conservative on most of the issues we care about." Colson obviously wasn't declaring for Romney, but simply indicating that he would not in religious principle, so to speak, be opposed to Romney and indeed could find political reasons to support him.Also, the rather glowing 9 minute profile of Romney on the Pat Robertson run 700 Club News segment for CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) seems to show that there is not inherent opposition to Romney because of his religion.
While I wouldn't expect any of these leaders to go on record as being against Romney because of his faith, at least they are willing to publically say "the right thing" on the issue. I'm apt to believe them on the individual level. However, whether the every-day religious-right voter will feel the same way remains to be seen.
Anyways (and getting back to my first point), I thought Jim Leach made a great point: that the U.S. sacrifices too much time, effort, money, and lives helping to resolve religious conflicts around the world . . . that we, as Republicans, cannot afford to let any similar religious disagreements to potentially divide our party or our country. A great man with a great mind.