Had lunch with a Wall Street tycoon who has been sizeing up the likely candidates for the Republican presidential ticket in 2008. Other than John McCain, the current front-runner but no shoo-in, he thought Rudy Giuliani had no chance, Bill Frist too intense, Chuck Hagel statesmanlike, but burdened with a voting record, and George Allen a nice guy, but don’t get it, “George Bush lite”. One person impressed him a great deal: Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachussetts, who earlier in his career turned around Bain & Co and then made a success of the Winter Olympics in Utah.
The question that neither of us could answer – and nor apparently could Romney – is how Romney’s mormon faith will play in the primaries, where the hardcore christian right holds sway. My guess, based entirely on time spent with evangelical christians in Britain, is that it will not play well at all. Romney may be a pro-lifer (with a few caveats), but although evangelicals sometimes admire the missionary zeal of mormons, those I have met universally regard mormonism – with its indestructible undergarments, shunning of coffee and magic scripture-reading spectacles – as bonkers, and a cult, up there with or even worse than scientology. Perhaps it is viewed differently in America: does anyone know?
Still, it is the fastest growing religion in the world, apparently, so there may be some supportive voters out there for Mitt, whose sensible economic views may also appeal to centrist Republicans. Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out why I find HBO’s mormon polygamy show, “Big Love”, such compulsive viewing.