Here are some excerpts from the article:
Mitt Romney engaged in a heated discussion about his Mormon faith with a prominent Des Moines talk show host off the air on Thursday morning. The contentious back-and-forth between Romney and WHO's Jan Mickelson began on the air (video link courtesy Breitbart.tv) when the former governor appeared on the popular program that has become a regular stop for GOP presidential hopefuls. But the conversation spilled over to a commercial break and went on after the program ended, where a visibly annoyed Romney spoke in much greater detail about his church's doctrines than he is comfortable doing so in public.
The footage was captured by the station's in-studio camera and posted on its website. But Romney, who is careful to portray a sunny and upbeat public image, clearly did not know he was being recorded. The candidate reveals a private side that is at turns cutting, combative and sarcastic, but most of all agitated at being forced to defend what he and his church stand for.
Perhaps knowing that the video was bound to get out, Romney's campaign sought to frame the story by posting it on its YouTube site and sending it to a friendly blogger, Dean Barnett of TownHall. Under the header "Mitt takes the gloves off," Barnett posted it last night, describing his preferred candidate as "firm, decisive, authoritative." Asked why they would highlight the testy exchange in which the candidate touches on his church's official stance on abortion, extramarital sex, alcohol consumption and even where the second coming of Christ will take place, Romney spokesman Matt Rhoades said they did so "because it was posted and we reviewed and thought the governor handled the situation very well."
During the show, Mickelson, a staunch conservative, pressed Romney on his abortion views and then pointed out that LDS doctrine discourages the practice. Romney, as he always does, was quick to steer the conversation away from what his church stands for. But Mickelson kept at it when the program went to break.
"I think you're making a big mistake when you distance yourself from your faith," Mickelson observed. "I'm not distancing myself from my faith," Romney forcefully responded. "I'm proud of my faith. There's nothing I distance myself from."
What followed was a discussion where Romney outlined the differences between Mormon dictates and civil law and Mickelson argued that the candidate was hurting himself with conservative voters by trying to "hermetically seal" his private, church-driven beliefs and public views.
The two briefly returned to the air to wrap up the show -- where Romney sidestepped Mickelson's request that the candidate come back to the show to further discuss issues -- before going at it again even more forcefully after Mickelson questioned how much the candidate knows about his own church. Romney explained in great detail what his church believes on an issue that has been raised in the course of the campaign, whether the second coming will take place in Jerusalem or Missouri, before returning to explain what exactly Mormon doctrine is on abortion.
Again asking Romney to come back to show, Mickelson offered, "I hope we can do this so we can expend some quality time on here rather than the sound bytes."
"No, I don't like coming on the air and having you go after me and my church," Romney testily responded.
"I'm not going after your church; I agree with your church!" Mickelson replied somewhat incredulously.
"I'm not running as a Mormon," Romney came back, "and I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it all about Mormon."
"See, I don't mind about it being all about that," Mickelson explained.
"I do. I do," Romney struck back.
The bickering went on, even as Romney was walking out the studio door and pointed out that he's "not running to talk about Mormonism."
The exchange captures one of the fundamental challenges of the role of Romney's faith in the campaign. He does not want to turn off voters who may be wary of Mormonism by talking in detail about what his church stands for, but he also runs the risk of offending social conservatives, like Mickelson, by appearing to downplay his church's strict teachings and playing up the presidency as a "secular office." For many religious conservatives, it's precisely their faith that impelled them into the public square of politics and government. The notion of separating the two is unthinkable.
Romney's task is to reassure these voters that he shares their values and that, like them, he's informed by his faith, but to do so without delving too deep into the more risky terrain of what exactly his church believes. But, as his debate with Mickelson proves, that's not always easy.
UPDATE: I've gotten a little more information as to how this raw footage came to be public. A Romney campaign aide said they didn't know the session was being taped nor did they know it would be posted. Apparently when they found out, the campaign sought to keep the off-air discussion from being put on Mickelson's website. "They decided to post it anyway," said the aide.
In remarks that seem to address the Romney camp's complaints, Mickelson wrote on his station's website last night that "[a]ll of the in-studio presidential interviews are video taped for later webcasting."
"Normally, as in this case, they are shot with two fixed cameras by the webcaster," Mickelson wrote. "He and the cameras are highly visible. The cameras are mounted on tripods just a few feet from the guest and host."
Still, the Romney camp points out that not all the off-air time from Mickelson's other presidential chats made it to the web.
Despite their initial unease over the video going public, Team Romney is not totally displeased at the feistier side of their candidate being put on display.
"Like we always say, the more people get to know Gov. Romney, the more they will like him," noted a campaign aide. "You can be forward-leaning and passionately fight for what you believe in and still be a good guy."
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Mitt Romney Melts Down/Implodes Over Mormonism Questions #2