Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will have little trouble courting the evangelical vote, Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land told The Daily Caller during a Wednesday interview.
“I don’t think Romney will have any kind of a problem — unless he picks a non-social conservative running mate — he should be okay,” Land, president of Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, said about concerns that Romney’s Mormon faith could turn off evangelicals.
According to Land, evangelicals are extremely concerned about the possibility of a second Obama term and are energized to vote against him.
Land cited Obama’s hot mic moment with outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in which Obama said he would have “more flexibility” after the election to discuss issues like missile defense, as one reason for evangelical anti-Obama sentiment.
“I cannot tell you how important that Russia comment was because it feeds into the fears that evangelicals have that there is a radical inside Obama that is straining to get out and once he doesn’t have to ever face the voters again — the day after the election they are going to be confronted with a Jekyll and Hyde situation,” he said. “Whatever concerns they have about Romney pale in comparison to their worries about a second Obama term.”
While evangelicals might be okay with voting for a Mormon, Land said that the media will likely make a big deal out of Romney’s faith to draw independents away from the former governor.
“[The Media] are going to trot out every exotic belief of Mormonism you can find. Baptism of the dead, etc., in the hopes that the strangeness of it will drive independents away from Romney,” he said.
Land explained that most evangelicals are already well aware of Mormon teachings — pastors often teach about the Book of Mormon as an inoculation against door-to-door Mormon missionaries. Independents, he said, are likely not as aware of certain unorthodox beliefs.
When asked if he believes evangelicals will have a problem voting for Romney, Land responded, “I don’t.” He added, however, that if Romney picks a pro-choice, non-social conservative running mate he will face more difficulties courting that vote.
The potential vice presidential candidate that would give Romney the biggest boost, according to Land, would be noted pro-life Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Land also mentioned Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as acceptable running mate options.
Land asserted that a person’s faith does play a role in their decision-making process and that he anticipates Romney’s Mormon faith will inform his decisions if elected. To Land that’s not a problem.
“Most the Mormons I know are decent, God-fearing, honest people,” he said. “I think that Romney, as a serious Mormon is far less likely to have any sexual scandals than a person who wasn’t a person of faith. He is far more likely to keep his word. Far more likely to be a role model than were he a person of no faith. I think most Americans like having a president who is aware and acknowledges he is accountable to a higher authority than himself.”
“If his Mormonism informs his policies he will be pro-life, he’s going to be pro-family, pro-traditional marriage, so far what’s the problem?” Land said.
Land does not endorse political candidates.