Romney's bid falls short
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The 2012 American presidential campaign marked an important moment in Church history. For the first time, a Latter-day Saint's name was on the ballot after receiving the nomination of on of the nation's two major political parties.
Republican Mitt Romney, a lifelong member, returned missionary and former bishop and stake president, was defeated in the Nov. 6 general election by the incumbent, President Barack Obama. Brother Romney's campaign brought unprecedented media attention to the Church. Throughout the grueling campaign, the Church adhered to its long-established political neutrality even as it reminded its membership of the importance of being responsible citizens and exercising their right to vote to select wise men and women for public office.
On the eve of Election Day, Church spokesman Michael Otterson spoke to the Washington Post about the presidential election and the interest it gleaned in the Church.
"For people like us, it's been incredibly intense because of all the media interest," he said.
Brother Otterson said he and others at the Church's public affairs office have weathered such interest "relatively well." He noted an evolution in media interest over the course of Brother Romney's two presidential campaigns: While the media initially focused on "what Mormons believe," their queries eventually shifted to "what Mormons do." That change allowed Brother Otterson and others at the Church's public affairs office to discuss the Church's humanitarian work and the charitable acts of its members worldwide.
"There was a turning point ... when media started to ask more questions about what to Mormons actually do, how do they live their lives, what is different about the community? And that was a conversation that made a lot more sense to us, because any religion tends to shape behavior of it adherents for the better. And frankly, Mormons do that very well. There is a very direct correlation between having a belief and not being passive about it. It should motivate you to do differently."
While Brother Romney's Church membership was the subject of several news stories during the 2012 presidential contest, it did not play a prominent role during his spirited campaign against President Obama. Instead, media coverage and the two candidates focused primarily on their respective positions on traditional campaign issues such as the economy, health care, taxes and foreign affairs.
Brother Romney did suggest during the election that his Church-taught values had played a prominent role in his political endeavors. During a September appearance on the television news program "Meet the Press," the candidate spoke of the "Judeo-Christian ethic of service" and its commitment to serve others.
"The sense of obligation to one's fellow man, an absolute conviction that we are all sons and daughters of the same God and, therefore, in a human family ... is one of the reasons I am doing what I'm doing."
Brother Romney was also featured in an expansive Oct. 8 TIME magazine cover story entitled "The Mormon Identity." The article focused on his Latter-day Saint background and devotion and how they had impacted his life and political pursuits.