Friday, April 20, 2012

Mitt Romney to Speak at Falwell's Liberty University

Just because it looks like Mitt Romney has the nomination all sewed up, doesn't mean all Republicans or evangelicals are lining up behind him. And just because Mike Huckabee and Pastor Jeffress have endorsed him doesn't mean everyone is over and passed the Mormon issues.
Former Governor Romney has been asked to speak at the convocation for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia (swing state!) on May 12. LU was founded by Reverend Jerry Falwell, Senior in the 1970s. The current chancellor of the university is Jerry Falwell, Jr. This is a university known for extremely conservative values, religious activity, and well, quite frankly, not liking Mormons. It boasts it is the largest Christian university in the world.
In the Virginia primaries there were 95 counties, and 39 independent cities. Ron Paul only won in 12 locations, and Lynchburg was one of them. (Reminder- only Paul and Romney were on the VA ballot.)
Romney's speech to the university will be one of the largest of his campaign, other than the convention. The audience size will be approximately 50,000 graduates and guests.
Falwell said in a statement university officials were “delighted that Governor Romney will join us to celebrate Commencement with Liberty’s 2012 graduates.”
Liberty has a long history of getting involved in politics. Governor Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke there in 2011, and other politicians have made the rounds there too- including President Reagan, President George H.W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee.
President Obama once spoke in Lynchburg as well, but at a local high school, and not the [extremely conservative] university.
Speaking at LU is a strong indicator that Romney is courting the more conservative sects of the Republican Party (and not the more moderate members), and that he is reaching out even more to the evangelicals. But not all Liberty and Lynchburg residents are happy about it. Students are announcing intentions to boycott their graduations, or to show up at the services with signs for other [former] candidates. Their gripes (heard on the local tv news yesterday) ranged from religious differences, to the fact that the school's straw poll in the fall, and the primaries, showed support for other candidates.
Virginia is a key battleground or swing state in the national elections. It has 13 electoral votes, and a history of splitting support between Republican and Democrat. The more urban and suburban areas of Northern Virginia (outside of Washington, DC), and the military regions of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, tend to not fall in line with the rest of the much more conservative state.

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