Starting Gate: Sneak Peek At Religion Speech

Mitt Romney delivers his speech on religion this morning at the George Bush presidential library. While this has been noted many times this week, it's important to remember that Romney's aims today are different than those of John F. Kennedy when he delivered his landmark speech on the same topic in 1960. Kennedy was seeking to reassure voters during a general election that he would separate his Catholic faith from the presidency. Romney needs to reassure evangelical Christians that he shares their values.

That difference is clear from their words. Kennedy said: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." Romney will say: "The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust."

From a preview released by his campaign, here's more of what we'll hear from the former Massachusetts Governor, who is seeking to become the nation's first Mormon president:

  • "There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam's words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'"
  • "When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."
  • "There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths."
  • "It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people."
  • "We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong."
  • "My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self -same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency."

    Thompson Gets South Carolina Pro-Life Nod: CBS News' John Bentley, on the trail with the Thompson campaign, reports:

    Fred Thompson received the endorsement of the South Carolina Citizens for Life today, the state chapter of the National Right-to-Life Committee. "South Carolina is very important to me, but having my friends endorse me is even more important than that," Thompson said. This is the second state right-to-life organization that has endorsed Thompson, with West Virginia being the other. Thompson received the national endorsement on November 13th.

    Mike Huckabee is the only other candidate to receive a state right-to-life endorsement, receiving the Georgia endorsement last week.

    The endorsement comes at a key time for Thompson, as his poll numbers in Iowa continue to fall behind the front-running Huckabee. With his poll numbers in New Hampshire looking even worse, winning the early South Carolina primary is key to his chances of winning the Republican nomination.

    Ups and Downs In Iowa: Polls out of Iowa are now coming fast and furious, but putting them all together, the results only affirm what was already known -- the contest there, in both parties, is close. To wit:

    The latest Zogby poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama, 27 percent to 24 percent, a gap well within the survey's 4.4 percent margin of error. John Edwards trails close behind at 21 percent. The Republican race is even tighter, with Mitt Romney edging out Mike Huckabee, 26 percent to 25 percent.

    A Strategic Vision poll actually shows Obama's putting some distance between himself and Clinton. In that survey, he garners 32 percent support compared to 25 percent for both Clinton and Edwards. This is notable for being the first survey to give Obama a lead larger than the margin of error -- 4.5 percent, in this case. But among Republicans, it's still basically a tie, with Huckabee at 27 percent and Romney at 24 percent.

    Polls out of New Hampshire are still showing Clinton and Romney on top, but even there, things are increasingly erratic. Depending on which survey you look at, Clinton's lead over Obama there is as small as 6 percent or as large as 14 percent. A Marist poll also shows John McCain tied for second in the Granite State, with Mike Huckabee making strong gains as well, according to the New Hampshire Union-Leader. But in an ABC News/Washington Post poll, the former Arkansas governor is still mired in single-digits.

    Welcome To The Top Tier, Mr. Huckabee: Huckabee's rise in the Iowa polls -- some now put him in first place -- has some benefits, like this New York Times profile focusing on his life behind the pulpit.

    But it also has its downside, as the former Arkansas governor is learning quickly. A sudden rash of coverage of Wayne DuMond -- the convicted rapist who won parole while Huckabee was governor, only to murder a woman later -- culminated in the mother of the murdered woman appearing on The Early Show on Wednesday, stating she didn't think Huckabee should be president.

    On top of that, Huckabee admitted on Wednesday that he hadn't been briefed on the controversial National Intelligence Estimate that reports Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, CBS News' Joy Lin reports. On CNN's "The Situation Room," Huckabee blamed it on a lack of sleep -- an excuse that may not play too well among voters.

    And then there's the religion question, or questions. The Associated Press reports that Huckabee has dodged queries on whether he considers the Mormon church to which Mitt Romney belongs a cult, as some evangelical Christians believe. He also didn't offer a clear answer on whether he is an adherent of creationism and if that doctrine should be taught in schools, saying that as president, he wouldn't be in charge of what's taught in state-run public schools.

    The saying goes that it's lonely at the top. But Huckabee first week in that spot demonstrats that in politics, the opposite is true: people just won't leave you, or your positions and your record, alone.

    Around The Track

  • Due to overwhelming demand, the Obama-Oprah event in South Carolina this weekend has been moved to the University of South Carolina's 80,000 Williams-Brice Stadium.
  • Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling made a pitch for John McCain in New Hampshire yesterday and delivered a little straight-talk of his own concerning the debate over global warming. "The next time I hear a politician talk about global warming and then hop in a Hummer and drive away," Schilling said, "I'm going to throw up."
  • For Iowans, the real holiday will come on January 4th.
  • What does Thompson have in common with Al Bundy? Check out some of the jobs the presidential candidates had before they sought the most powerful one in the world.