I managed to catch some of Mitt Romney's speech today on faith. From what I've heard (and from what I've heard from commentators after the fact), it was a moving, powerful speech, one that should lay to rest any doubts people have about whether Romney's Mormon faith would play a role in his Presidency should he be elected. I was impressed, but one fact bothered me.
This speech should have been given months ago.
Almost since he announced his intention to run for President, Romney's faith has been a point by which he could be attacked, mainly because not enough people know what Mormons believe. That level of ignorance can lead to irrational fear, which can lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations. That, in turn, can lead to distrust, which is fatal to any political campaign.
When Rmoney's faith was attacked by the left and the right, Romney kept quiet. That has two results: 1) it adds to the mystery, and 2) it makes people believe there's something to the criticisms, no matter how absurd they may have been. (Case in point: the "magic underwear" comment that has been overblown and repeated ad nauseum.) The time to diffuse that situation is not a month before the Iowa Caucuses, but at the point of attack.
By waiting as long as he has, Romney has opened himself up to a criticism, one I haven't heard anyone bring up yet: his speech was pure political posturing. No matter how good the speech was, the timing of it smacks of a manufactured event. If Mike Huckabee had been sucking Ron Paul's vapors, would Romney have come out with this speech today? Probably not.
Should he have given this speech? Absolutely. He needed to quiet his critics and speak to how the left in this country has done to make religious faith into something to attack or something to use as a shield for certain candidates. It needed to be said, and Romney was the best man to say it, given his faith. Huckabee couldn't have pulled it off with the same effectiveness as Romney did.
Now, if only he'd done it sooner.