Why He Only Mentioned It Once

Reader Simon Owens sent me an email pointing out the very curious fact that in Romney’s religious speech yesterday, he actually only mentioned “Mormon” once.  Directing me to his own blog post right here, Simon does bring up a good point.  This was a speech intended to assuage apprehensions among voters regarding his religion.  You would think he would have mentioned it more than once.

Happily, such an email allowed me to delve into the question a little more, as well as put up an e-mail post, and I always love those.

Thank you very much.  Actually, I did pick up on it, and Chris Cillizza mentioned it in
his post game analysis.  You can check that out here:

It’s interesting, though I’m not exactly sure how consequential it is.  You do have to
remember the primary audience, and what Mitt’s goal is in regards to that audience.

I think the answer could be found in polling.  In general in polling, you will find a
curious phenomenon.  For instance, right now, if you were to poll a specific Republican
candidate against a generic and unnamed Democrat, you will find that the Democrat polls
considerably well against the named Republican.  However, when you poll that very same
Republican against actual named Democrats, you will find that the Republican does better,
and even though there might be some Democrats that still do well against the Republican,
none do as well as the hypothetical.

The reason for this is simple.  In the case of the generic candidate, voters are allowed
to attribute to that candidate those traits they find most admirable.  If it becomes ANY
democrat, unless hte person being asked actually hates Democrats, they are likely to
think of the most favorable Democrats in thier memory.

I think this might be part of the driving dynamic behind the word selection in Romney’s
speech.  As a whole, Mitt’s presentation was a plea for religious tolerance across the
board, though he mentions Mormonism only once, Islam only once, and Judaism once, maybe
twice.  The overall effect is to put in the mind of the listener a call for religious
tolerance that would extend to those religions they feel most comfortable with.

Remember, about 80% of Americans identify as Christians, and while there are some
sectarian differences, many traditional Christian faiths mesh rather well.  Thus, as
Romney makes the case for his own religion, the actual text of the speech does not
challenge the listener to open their mind that far.

It’s a one size fits all oration and one I expect to be significantly more successful
than had Mitt actually addressed his own religion more specifically.  There he would have
had to make the case against all the negative baggage that the religion carries with it:
rumors of racism, radical cultist behavior, polygamy.  All of this stuff not even close
to being in line with main stream practitioners, but then, it’s always so much easier to
see the extremists of other religions than one’s own.

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