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(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) The Mitt Romney campaign said Olympic speedskater Derek Parra will be among the Olympians appearing at the 2012 GOP Convention.
LDS faith, Olympics to be big at GOP convention

Politics » Prominence of Mormon faith will be departure for the Romney campaign.

First Published Aug 24 2012 09:45 am • Last Updated Nov 30 2012 11:33 pm

Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith will be front-and-center next week, presented to millions of Americans watching as Romney accepts his party’s presidential nomination.

Romney’s biography presented on the closing night of the convention will feature speakers who have worked with Romney in his role as a lay leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russ Schriefer, a strategist for the Romney campaign, said Friday.

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Olympians in Romney’s corner

In addition to focusing on Romney’s faith, the convention will feature a trio of Olympians — Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team who lit the torch at the Utah games will be featured, as will gold-medal speedskater Derek Parra and Kim Rhode, a three-time gold medalist in skeet shooting.

In all, nearly a dozen past Olympians will be on hand on the convention’s final night, highlighting Romney’s role managing the 2002 Winter Olympics.

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"As part of Governor Romney’s story, we will be having several people who he worked with through his church, who he helped in different times of his life," Schriefer said. "We will have someone who followed Governor Romney as a leader of his church who will talk about what it was like to fill Governor Romney’s shoes."

Another LDS member will offer the opening prayer on the convention’s final night. All told, more than a half-dozen Mormons will address the four-day convention, including Romney and his wife, Ann.

Organizers did not release the names of the specific individuals who will be speaking, but the prominent focus on Romney’s Mormon faith will be a departure for the campaign and offer Romney a controlled, scripted spotlight to feature his religion.

Richard Bushman, a professor emeritus at Columbia University who has studied Mormonism, said he has heard people question why Romney isn’t focusing more on his faith — things like the volunteer service as a lay leader, dealing with the problems of the congregation, like poverty and divorce.

"Judging from the last couple of weeks, the campaign has decided to" change its approach, Bushman said. "I think it wiill show him as a person who is not removed from ordinary lives."

Bushman said the move indicates that Romney is comfortable that he has the evangelical Christian vote solidly behind him, "so he can bring Mormonism safely to the fore."

"Probably they were wise to wait this long. It is kind of a hot potato. A lot of things could explode in your face if you make too much of it," Bushman said.

For example, Romney won’t want to have to answer for "every peculiar practice and doctrine" of the religion, such as plural marriage practiced by the church’s founders, Bushman said, but the convention setting eliminates that dynamic.


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In addition to focusing on Romney’s faith, the convention will feature a trio of Olympians. Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" hockey team who lit the torch at the Utah Games, will be featured, as will gold-medal speedskater Derek Parra and Kim Rhode, a three-time gold medalist in skeet shooting.

In all, nearly a dozen past Olympians will be on hand on the convention’s final night, highlighting Romney’s role managing the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The convention opens Monday, focusing on the failures during President Barack Obama’s term in office, said Schriefer. On Tuesday, there will be a video presentation focusing on Texas Rep. Ron Paul, whose supporters grumbled was being snubbed because he did not receive a speaking role at the convention.

Wednesday will highlight Romney’s economic proposals and on Thursday, the evening Romney will address the convention, the aim is to "tell Governor Romney’s story in a very complete way," Schriefer told reporters in a conference call Friday.

"We believe that in wrapping it up Thursday night with that message we can show how Governor Romney is uniquely qualified to take on the challenges that we are facing," he said.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke



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