Yair Rosenberg suggests that Romney might consider following Tony Blair’s religious example:
The shared implication of these arguments is that Romney cannot run for office while running away from his potentially problematic religious beliefs. But recent history offers a powerful counterexample of a very successful politician who quite transparently soft-pedaled and sidestepped his own religious convictions: former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Blair’s example doesn’t offer Romney much guidance. For one thing, Blair obviously didn’t make social and cultural conservative issues an important part of his political identity, and he didn’t lace his rhetoric with frequent references to faith and God throughout his national political career. The lesson Romney might have learned from Blair is that it is possible to avoid discussing one’s religious beliefs in a political culture where this is already frowned-upon and considered rather antiquated or bizarre, and it is much easier to be nothing more than a privately observant politician in a country and a party where that is considered normal. Unfortunately, Blair’s “soft-pedaling” of his religious convictions didn’t save Britain or the rest of us from his obnoxious, pro-war moralizing.
Romney’s predicament is quite different. Blair became a successful leader of the main center-left party in a predominantly secular country. Romney has tried to make himself into the religious conservative leader of a center-right party made up mostly of Christians and seeks to be the president in a nominally majority Christian country. Romney cannot “sidestep” his convictions because he has made those convictions an important part of the earlier reinvention of himself as a movement conservative. If he is perceived as “sidestepping” his convictions, it will be considered another opportunistic move to create yet another political identity.
To the extent that he was responsible for it, Blair’s political success derived from his ability to reinvent the image of his party and to bring his party along with him. For his part, Romney has made a point of identifying himself with the GOP as he found it beginning in the mid-2000s. He has spent the last five years trying and only partially succeeding to persuade conservative Republicans that he is on their side. Romney cannot do for Republicans what Blair did for Labour, which is probably for the best considering Blair’s track record. Romney has little credibility with core constituencies of the party, but he would have even less if he had not boxed himself in with his culture war rhetoric over the last several years.