“I don’t like coming on the air and having you go after my church and me,” Romney told Jan Mickelson, the host of a popular conservative show on WHO-AM in Des Moines, in the August 2007 encounter as he was seeking the 2008 GOP nomination. “I’m not running as a Mormon, and I get a little tired of coming on shows like yours and having it all about Mormon.”
The identity of the YouTube user who posted a portion of the interview Wednesday was not clear, but by early Sunday the video had been viewed more than 1.2 million times, even though other versions had been available online for five years.
Many of those spreading the video were liberals, such as Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who retweeted the link twice and called it “MUST SEE TV.”
A spokeswoman for Romney’s campaign declined to comment, as did a church spokesman. Romney has said in the past that he didn’t know he was being filmed during the discussion after his official interview, claiming that he was taped on a “hidden camera.”
Romney’s faith has been politically sensitive in the past, particularly for some core GOP evangelical voters, but in recent weeks social conservatives have flocked to his candidacy. The growing support suggests religious conservatives have abandoned their initial skepticism of Romney based on his faith— or at least that their fervor for defeating Obama has diminished any prior concerns about putting a Mormon in the Oval Office.
Where in his unsuccessful 2008 campaign Romney attempted to mollify evangelicals and other skeptics with a speech on Mormonism, this time he and his supporters have instead limited discussion to how religion has informed Romney’s values and charitable good deeds.
The shift by social conservatives was cemented in a sense last month, when the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed Mormonism from a list of religious cults, as first reported by the Charlotte Observer, and the longtime evangelist’s son, Franklin, wrote a column saying it was okay for a religious Christian to vote for a Mormon.
Evangelical leaders now say Romney could be the beneficiary of a major mobilization of “values voters,” largely as a response to Obama’s tilt to the left on social issues such as his support for same-sex marriage and his backing of a rule requiring coverage of contraception in employee health plans.