Romney Loses Key Endorsement
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said everything he could to win over evangelical activists at the Values Voters Summit last week. His speech at the Washington Hilton was a virtual checklist for the Christian conservative movement.
Afterward, Romney touted his razor-thin victory in the Values Voters straw poll (when online votes were counted) and a series of high-profile endorsements, including one from Don Wilton, the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who had praised Romney as "someone in Washington who will stand up for traditional families."
Now, however, Wilton has withdrawn that endorsement, calling the decision a "personal error" on his part. In an interview in the Baptist Press, Wilton said the following:
"While I did give my consent to the local campaign to use my affirmation of the Governor's stance on family values in my capacity as an individual citizen, I made the mistake of not realizing the extent to which it would be used on a national basis. It was my personal error to agree to support Romney's campaign. Until this incident I had never endorsed any person running for any elected office, Democrat or Republican."
The un-endorsement is a blow to Romney, who has been seeking to put the issue of his Mormon faith behind him by assembling support from conservative Christians, some of whom view Mormonism as a cult.
So far, he has declined to give a speech dedicated to questions about his faith. Aides have not ruled out such a speech, but have said they are not sure when, or whether, it will happen.
Romney is seeking to assure Christians and others that he would not impose his religion on others from the White House. But he is also attempting to show that he is a religious man whose faith guides him.
Those twin goals will be tricky to achieve, especially if he loses the support of established Christian leaders like Wilton.
"While I will vote my constitutional right as an American citizen, and while I implore all eligible Americans to do the same, I will continue to use my personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as the only standard by which I determine who to vote for in any election," Wilton said in his statement.
--Michael D. Shear
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