A top official at Bob Jones University, the Evangelical Christian school with a history of anti-Mormon rhetoric, plans to throw his weight behind Mormon presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Robert R. Taylor, dean of the university’s college of arts and sciences, said he believes the former Massachusetts governor is the only Republican candidate who both stands a chance of winning the White House and will reliably implement the anti-abortion, antigay marriage, pro-gun agenda of Christian conservatives. (See a related post on Romney.)
“The fact that I’m seen as a Religious Right person would hopefully get others to step out for him,” Taylor said in an interview in Greenville, S.C., the university’s hometown.
Taylor’s endorsement, which he said he plans to announce in the near future, marks a stunning move for such a high-placed academic at Bob Jones University. In 2000, Bob Jones III, then president of the university, wrote a public letter that referred to Mormonism and Catholicism as “cults which call themselves Christian.”
Taylor acknowledged that endorsing a Mormon for president risked alienating the university’s conservative donors and alumni. But, he said, “we’re not electing a pastor -we’re electing a president.”
Romney already has high profile supporters among the evangelical community, including Mark DeMoss and Jay Sekulow but the endorsement from a senior official at one of the fundamentalist flagships is a significant marker for the former Massachusetts governor as many have feared that he could not close the deal with religious conservatives in the south.
As the long primary campaign enters its final four months, the sense that conservatives are coalescing around Romney is unmistakable. No one emerged from the second tier to provide an alternative, and Fred Thompson’s flop out of the gates left Rpmney as the last conservative candidate with a realistic chance to stop Mayor Giuliani. Expect more endorsements of this sort as conservatives put aside the over-analyzed Mormon issue and the silly flip flop attacks and decide that Romney is the most conservative candidate with a chance of winning in November, 2008.