Here's Mitt

(AP / CBS)
Steve Chaggaris is Deputy Political Director for CBS News.
Add another one to your presidential candidate scorecard: Mitt Romney is officially a presidential candidate.

The former Republican governor of Massachusetts went to Michigan today to make his announcement - the state where he was born and where his father, George Romney, served as an auto executive and governor.

Romney, however, faces an uphill battle to emerge from the throng of candidates running. And if it isn't difficult enough for Romney to garner interest with the likes of "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain getting most of the attention, he has a couple of personal hurdles to overcome as well.

First and foremost is the fact that he's a devout Mormon. While some may think someone's religion shouldn't matter in this day and age, a CBS News poll on this issue will be released tonight, showing that his religion is a mystery to many Americans.

Romney made a veiled reference today to his religion, in an attempt to shed some light on his beliefs.

"I believe in God and I believe that every person...is a child of God. We are all sisters and brothers," Romney said.

Romney friend and fellow Mormon Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told CBS News National Political Correspondent Gloria Borger, who's preparing a story for tonight's Evening News, that a lot Americans are misunderstood when it comes to Mormons.

"What most people don't realize, the name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and some people don't think Mormons are Christians," Hatch told Gloria. "My gosh, we are great believers that Christ is our personal savior, the redeemer of the world."

Meantime, Romney has tried in recent months to position himself as the social conservative alternative among the Republican candiates.

"I believe that the family is the foundation of America – and that it needs to be protected and strengthened," he said today. "I believe in the sanctity of human life."

But some on the right aren't so sure of his conservative credentials, especially after video of Romney from his 1994 Senate race and 2002 gubernatorial race show him with less than conservative views on abortion rights and gay rights.

Peter Torkildsen, the Massachusetts GOP chairman, told us simply that Romney's beliefs have evolved and, more importantly, he's been honest with voters about it.

"Governor Romney said very publicly that he has changed his views on some issues over a period of years." Torkildsen said. "Any candidate who changes his or her position on an issue, has to tell the voters why. And I think Governor Romney has done that."

Whether Republican primary voters will buy that remains to be seen. But with 335 days until the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, Romney has plenty of time to try to convince them he's their man.

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBSNews.com's Executive Editor, Washington.

Comments