Romney Delivers Major Speech on Faith

Rivals React to Romney Speech

Some of Romney's political rivals reacted to Romney's decision to address his Mormon faith. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., a Republican candidate, argued Romney's faith shouldn't be an issue.

"The recent attacks and insinuations, both direct and subtle, that Gov. Romney may be less fit to serve as president of our United States because of his faith fly in the face of everything America stands for," Paul said in a statement Thursday. "Gov. Romney should be judged fairly, on his record and his character, not on the church he attends."

GOP candidate former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., has said he would wait to hear the speech before reacting.

However his South Carolina state campaign co-chair, Cyndi Mosteller said the speech won't answer questions about the tenets of Mormonism that are "very unusual to the point that it's almost unbelievable."

She cited in particular "the Church's history, and almost theology, on the issue of race -- particularly the black race."

Romney's Reasons for 'Faith in America'

Less than a month ago, Romney brushed off questions of giving a speech on his religion. At a campaign stop in Laconia, N.H., Romney said, "There's really not a need to [give a speech] right now."

Romney argued that "we're doing real well in the states that we talk to," referencing the much-visited early primary or caucus states, "and the people … they don't care about a religion issue."

At that point, Romney enjoyed a significant lead in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Romney's inspiration for the speech likely comes from a number of different sources. As he said Monday, "I've gotten a lot of unsolicited advice from folks from time to time."

In speaking on his religion, Romney frequently cites Lincoln's "Lyceum Speech," which references the basis of the United States' "political religion."

"As the patriots of '76 did to the support of the Declaration of Independence," Lincoln said, "so to the support of the Constitution and laws, let every American pledge his life, his property and his sacred honor."

Romney has also mentioned on the campaign trail that he had recently re-read Jon Meacham's book "American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation."

Romney's family played a large role in his decision to give the speech. Romney said he "talked to [his] family over … the whole campaign about when would I give speech that relates to faith in America."

Why Now?

Romney's campaign has claimed for months that if he was going to give a speech, he likely wouldn't do so until after the primaries should he gain the nomination.

While the campaign vehemently denies there is any connection, the most significant change in the Republican field in the last two weeks is certainly the rise of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in Iowa, where a recent ABC News poll showed Huckabee tied for first with Romney.

Huckabee, a Baptist minister, also recently released a new television ad in Iowa touting himself as a "Christian leader," putting the issue of religion front and center in the earliest of the early states.

In a subtle jab, Romney said Monday that, "I think that a candidate or a president that tried to make his religion a defining a feature of his campaign or of his term in office would tend to divide the nation rather than bring us together."

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