Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is opening up a bit about his Mormon faith.
In an interview with Parade Magazine scheduled for release on Sunday, the eve of the Republican National Convention, Romney says he gives 10 percent of his income to the Mormon church, but he expressed a different attitude about it than his wife, Ann. "I love tithing," she said. "When Mitt and I give that check, I actually cry." Mitt Romney joked: "So do I, but for a different reason."
He also said, "Our church doesn't publish how much people have given. This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one's financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It's a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church."
Romney has had trouble courting some evangelical Christians who consider his religion a sect, not a real Christian faith. He is expected to talk more about his religion in the endgame of the presidential race, starting at the convention in Tampa next week.
Asked how he can identify with people "trying to scrape by, living on food stamps," the candidate, who has a vast personal fortune estimated at $250 million, said, "Each of us faces struggles of one kind of another. Our life was not characteized by financial stress as much as it was by health issues. I served as a pastor of congregation and saw people with various challenges and did my best to help them. I believe my experience in the private sector, the voluntary sector, and government has helped teach me what it takes to help people with different types of challenges."
Romney's remarks about his tax status and his ability to identify with the less fortunate come at a time when the Democrats are attacking him for failing to release many details of his tax returns, and for failing to understand the problems of Middle America.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee issued a new report on the status of the presidential campaign in the runup to the GOP national convention. And, not surprisingly, it gives an upbeat message about Romney's chances in the November election.
RNC political director Rick Wiley says the Republicans have an "enthusiasm edge" over the Democrats. He points out that national polls show the race is statistically tied, with Romney closing the gap with President Obama in key battleground states such as Ohio and Florida.
"As we head to the Republican National Convention, polls across the country show a surge of support for the Republican ticket," Wiley said Friday in an emailed memo to reporters and other "interested parties." He cited a USA Today/Gallup Poll showing that 53 per cent of Republicans are "more enthusiastic than usual about voting this year," while only 46 per cent of Democrats feel the same way. Wiley also cited a CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll indicating that there is a 17-point enthusiasm advantage for the GOP in Florida and an 11-point advangage in Ohio.
But Obama still has a small lead over Romney in both states and nationally, according to a variety of polls.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Facebook and Twitter.