It looks as if Mitt Romney’s effort to reach out to the GOP’s right-wing base is kicking into overdrive beginning this weekend:
A visit this weekend to the Rev. Pat Robertson’s school illustrates the challenge for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as he courts the all-important evangelical vote.
The former Massachusetts governor is to give the commencement address Saturday at Robertson’s Regent University in Virginia, a golden opportunity to reach core GOP voters.
Of course, when the invitation was extended to Romney back in March, some of the students at Regent were pretty upset about it:
Selecting presidential candidate Mitt Romney as its May commencement speaker has riled some of Regent University’s students and alumni who say his Mormon faith clashes with the school’s bedrock evangelical Christianity.
“What we’re against is the fact that Mormonism is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Christian values and what we believe,” said Doug Dowdey, a Virginia Beach pastor who said he graduated from Regent’s divinity school last year.
Dowdey said he welcomed diverse viewpoints at Regent but that the university’s commencement should reflect the school’s distinctive religious values.
“If Pat wants to hold a political rally, well, hold one. Why not? Just don’t hold it at commencement,” Dowdey said.
While Romney is busy courting Robertson personally, his campaign is preparing to send out surrogates to court right-wing grassroots activists all over the country:
In the next few weeks, the campaign will take a more direct approach, sending two of its evangelical supporters for meetings with pastors and others in key primary states.
Mark DeMoss, a public relations executive whose prominent client roster includes the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, said he volunteered to travel to South Carolina and Alabama on Romney’s behalf.
Jay Sekulow, a Washington insider and chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, an advocacy group founded by Robertson, is heading to Iowa and Florida, DeMoss said.
Hugh Hewitt, the conservative blogger and radio talk show host, is trying to help Romney by publishing the book “A Mormon in the White House?” which urges Christians not to oppose the candidate because of LDS teachings they consider heretical.
I thought he knocked it out of the park, he was clearly a fantastic candidate tonight, and showed why he’d make the best president.
My Dad is articulate, he knows how to communicate his vision, he’s very relaxed in front of the camera, he’s a fantastic communicator. I think clearly, anyone who watched the debate tonight would say boy, isn’t Mitt Romney, wouldn’t Mitt Romney make a fantastic president. That’s the same feeling people get when they meet him one on one. It’s the same feeling they get when they meet him in large groups.