Out of all the current GOP candidates, 64-year-old Mitt Romney has been in this position before. He heads into the Nevada Primary on February 4th with great optimism as he won the state’s caucuses in 2008 by nearly 40 percentage points, and the former Massachusetts governor has maintained his popularity in "The Silver State," despite losing out to John McCain the last time round in taking on Obama.
Romney certainly looks the most presidential of all the candidates. He also has the most steady support in the polls. He came to the Las Vegas debate with 26% support in the polls, with Herman Cain trailing by just one percentage point. Rick Perry had 13%, Ron Paul 9%, Gingrich was on 8%, with Bachmann bringing up the rear with just 6%. The polls, by the way, continue to swing daily.
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On The Washington Post website, and not just there, one could read articles on whether Romney's Mormon faith could harm his chances to win the primaries. Of course, CNN's Anderson Cooper, who hosted the Vegas debate, brought up the issue of religion. But even during this bullfight in the desert, religion was not a bone of contention. None of the Republicans wanted to place any real importance on the religious beliefs of any one of the candidates. More than 75% of Republican voters have stated, in various questionnaires, that religion has no bearing on their decision over who to vote for.
However, studies conducted just before the 2008 Presidential elections proved that once Romney's religious affiliation was brought up with voters, it elicited a negative response. America's Mormons represent just two percent of the country's population. Only 11% of Americans say they really know the Mormon Church, and 10% of Americans believe that Mormonism is "very different" from their own religion. According to a Pew Research poll, more than a third of Republican voters believe that the Mormon church does not even belong to Christianity, and even stated that they are "less likely" to vote for a Mormon as their candidate.
Romney and the Mormons see themselves, obviously, as an integral part of Christendom. In the 1960s Romney was the Mormon faith's envoy to France, this before his transition to a successful business and political career. Rick Perry accuses Romney of flip-flopping politically, and of not being a pure Republican. Perry bases his contention on the fact that in 1993, when Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts, he switched from being an Independent candidate to the GOP.
Israel Hayom: Governor, how much do you think the current administration had a bad impact or negative influence on the relationship between Israel and the U.S.?
Romney: I think that the president badly misunderstood the role of an ally. I think because Obama thought that if he drew closer to the Palestinians that would somehow encourage the peace process. My view is that he threw Israel under the bus by laying out his view of the policies he thought Israel should adopt in the piece process. I believe that the role of an ally is to stand behind your friends and let them speak for themselves, rather than be spoken for by the United States of America. I believe our relationship with Israel, a nation which shares our values and is our best friend in the Middle East, should be of support and confidence rather than criticism and blame. The president got off on the wrong foot by speaking before the United Nations and criticizing Israel for building settlements and saying nothing about the Palestinians launching thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel, as well as calling on Israel to accept the 1967 borders, which are unquestionably indefensible. This was an act not befitting a friend and ally.
The transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a great symbolic aid to Israel. Is that something that you would consider?
The actions that I will take will be actions recommended and supported by Israeli leaders. I don’t seek to take actions independent of what our allies think is best, and if Israel’s leaders thought that a move of that nature would be helpful to their efforts, then that’s something I’ll be inclined to do. But again, that’s a decision which I would look to the Israeli leadership to help guide. I don’t think America should play the role of the leader of the peace process, instead we should stand by our ally. Again, my inclination is to follow the guidance of our ally Israel, as to where our facilities and embassies would exist.
How would you judge Obama’s policy and how much, if you’re in the White House, would you change it?
Weakness begets adventurism, and the president has shown weakness by extending his hand for a summit in his first year of office with Ahmadinejad only to have it slapped down. By being silent as protesters took to the streets in Iran, by not establishing crippling sanctions against Iran for their nuclear program, and by not mouthing a credible military threat to their ongoing nuclear program. The right course is for the president to declare that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable to America, and to punctuate that commitment. I have called for us to deploy two aircraft carrier task forces, one to the gulf, one to the Mediterranean to communicate our resolve in that regard.
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