This was his conundrum, as I wrote elsewhere:
It's gonna be a tough juggling act for Romney. He's gotta convince the Christian Right that your religious beliefs shouldn't matter one single bit in our pluralistic, Democratic America, unless, of course, you're a Muslim or, Moroni forbid, ...an atheist! At the same time he's got to convince GOP voters that he's a deeply religious man who is driven by faith, because it would be unthinkable to elect anyone who wasn't (i.e. a Democrat).
And having just watched the speech, that's exactly what he tried to do. There were four main points:
1) It's unfair not to vote for Romney just because he's a Mormon...Romney's trying to pilot his ship through a very, very narrow strait. On the one hand are the Christian fundamentalists who won't vote for him because they're a lot like the Islamists in terms of their exclusivity of belief and hegemonic evangelism. On the other hand are those on the left who are uncomfortable with the Religious Right's attempt to so closely tie religion to politics.
2) ...because then we'd be like Islamists want to kill us all because we're not Islamists.
3) But obviously we need a religious man in the Whitehouse...
4) ...because otherwise we'd be like secular Europe with its empty Cathedrals.
I for one felt very uncomfortable with Romney's insistence, at the beginning of his speech, that freedom requires religious conviction. It reminds me of the time that George Bush the elder (who introduced Romney at his speech today) questioned whether atheists should be allowed to be citizens or could possibly be patriots. Clearly Romney is trying to have it both ways. He's demanding that the Religious Right be open minded about his own beliefs while assuring them that he's just as intolerant of unbelievers as they are.
Sadly for Romney, I suspect this speech will probably be remembered as his Swan Song. The Religious Right has found its man in Mike Huckabee, and unless Romney and Giuliani make common cause and break out the Karl Rove handbook and pull out all the stops to successfully Swiftboat him based upon the emerging Wayne Dummond scandal, Huckabee's going to sail to the nomination.
One thing I can guarantee: the GOP nomination is about to get nasty. Hillary and Obama are going to look like bestest pals based on what's about to unfold in their opponents' race.