In late October, departing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney huddled with a godly group. Gathered in his kitchen were 15 of the country's leading evangelicals, including giants like Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. They'd come to nibble sandwiches, slurp soup and quiz Romney on his faith. Why on earth should they support Romney, a Mormon, in his presidential candidacy in 2008? Richard Lee, a Baptist minister from Cumming, Ga., got to the heart of the matter. What did Romney really believe about Jesus Christ? Romney didn't hesitate. "When I say Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, I realize that means something different to you than it does to me," he admitted. But he urged them to remember their shared beliefs: the faith that Christ was born of a virgin, was crucified and rose after three days. The ministers were pleased. "So you're really a Baptist?" Lee cracked.
Romney, an unannounced but eager candidate for the Republican nomination, is hoping other evangelicals will have trouble telling the difference. With the Iowa caucuses only a year away, he is working tirelessly for the support of Christian conservatives. In another year, this might be a futile quest given many evangelicals' conviction that Mormonism is a heretical cult. (Unlike evangelicals, Mormons believe Jesus appeared in America after his resurrection and that God himself was once a man.) And the recent resurfacing of a letter Romney wrote expressing solidarity with gay-rights groups has many social conservatives wondering if a governor from Massachusetts is "700 Club" material.