CORONADO, Calif. -- In a speech here Friday night, Mitt Romney reminded the world that he’s a Mormon – and made clear that it would be a key part of his presidential campaign if he does decide to run for a third time.
Romney put his faith, something he rarely spoke about or demonstrated on the 2012 or 2008 campaign trail, front and center while addressing Republican National Committee members aboard the USS Midway in San Diego, saying that those closest to him, including his wife Ann, know him not only as a businessman and politician but as a devoted leader in the Mormon church.
“For over ten years, as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations. And so she’s seen me work with people who are very poor, to get them help and subsistence. She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is,” Romney said.
His remarks were some of his most extensive on his role in the Mormon Church – he previously served as a ward bishop in his Boston community – ever in a political setting.
Romney’s advisers shied away from the former Massachusetts governor highlighting his faith because they feared Mormonism would alienate some voters, especially evangelical Christians in key Republican strongholds.
In fact, even during a May 2012 speech at Liberty University, founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell, Romney would only speak in general terms about a “Christian conscience” but would not specifically mention his own religion – even as it has played such a central role in his life.
But since Romney’s most recent failed bid, he’s been more open about Mormonism, including at a Southern Virginia University commencement speech in April 2013, where he spoke about his own Mormon mission to France in the 1960’s.
While Romney’s address at the RNC’s winter meeting last-night dinner was meant to be informal remarks, he made it clear that he was weighing a third bid, telling the audience, “I’m giving some serious consideration to the future.”
If he does run again, it was clear that he was making an active decision to use his deep faith as an asset, not a liability.
Romney also appeared to have learned some lessons from both previous presidential runs in terms of framing his policy message. Back in 2008, he spoke about a three-legged policy “stool,” made up of strong military, strong economy and strong families, and started actually bringing a physical wooden stool to campaign events, where he would dismantle one leg to demonstrate that all three “legs” are equally essential.
And in 2012, he mired voters in a list of 59 policy points.
Friday night, he had once again whittled the list down to three policy principles, but this time they were slightly different, more populist, and unaccompanied by a prop: making the world safer; providing opportunity for all and lifting Americans out of poverty.
“In the post-Obama era, conservative principles are needed as perhaps never before during our lifetime,” he said.