[Update (12/5/07): It appears the governor has indeed taken the "Look-I'm-Pro-Life- I-was-always-Pro-Life" approach, and backs it with his legislative record. Good for him.]
Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney's major drawback in a general election scenario is not a dubious conservatism per se
. If America-First nationalism, a strong military, fiscal responsibilty, pro-growth, traditional Family Values, mom, baseball, apple pie, and Donny Osmond are the hallmarks of conservatism, Romney is as authentic a conservative as they come.
However, the liberal leanings in his record (especially his earlier Pro-Abortion stance) and his about-faces on them has created a smaze around Romney of a suspect conservatism, an exhibiting of Clintonian slickness, a flip-flopping of "principles" as politically opportune.
Such wind-blown "principles" can indeed indicate--as with the Clintons--the opposite, i.e. an unprincipledness, spiting the conservative values of characteristic come-what-may honesty and integrity (which conservatives demand and for which Giuliani is rewarded, despite his own far-more liberal leanings).
Governor Romney has been trying to disperse that persistent smaze by explaining that he had (rather belatedly) taken a second-look of sorts at the issue (of abortion, for example) and decided that it was more than tissue (pardon Republicus; the rhyme was irresistable): The zygote is an irreducible human being.
In other words, he changed his mind.
That is unsatisfactory. Was his mind changed by intellectual evolution (or devolution, depending on your pro or anti-abortion stance), or political capriciousness?
Republicus would have been satisfied--and believe most others concerned would have been as well-- if the governor just came out and said something to the effect of: "Look, I'm Pro-Life. I was always Pro-Life, and, as your president, I'll do what the Constitution allows me to do to end government-sanctioned abortion, and that means appointing the right kind of justices. But as governor of Massachusetts, I had to set aside my personal beliefs in that capacity and work on behalf of my constituents there, who were overwhelmingly pro-Choice."
Assuming that is the truth, end of controversy. Furthermore, such a statement not only preserves integrity of principle on that issue but also scores points for his assurances that he would not impose his Mormon beliefs on the rest of the country.
That was not how he played it, however, and so the smaze persists (and is perhaps thickened by the specter of fickleness).
Perhaps his earlier support for abortion rights was too strongly worded to allow the above explanation and would further invite Clinonian charges ("I was pro-Life from the beginning!"/"I was against the war from the beginning!"), in which case he should stick to the "I changed my mind" rationale (especially if it's true, of course).
Still, Republicus is impressed (amazed, actually) that the Republican was able to win the governorship of the leftist state of Massachusetts and is willing to forgive such compromises of certain segments of conservatism because he was elected by the people of Massachutts under promised expectations (and, again, it can well be argued that therein lies the proof that, as an elected political leader, he serves the people, not the Salt Lake City Temple, as JFK assured vis-a-vis the Vatican).
Anyway, the concerns about Romney's Conservatism is nothing but a strawman to cover the concerns about Mormonism. But there is nothing out-of-the-ordinary, bizarre, and/or "cultish" about the Mormon faith that can't be ascribed to any other Christian denomination or Abrahamic faith in general on the same grounds (e.g. belief in the supernatural and a personal, transcendant, monotheistic deity, unquestioning devotion to a charismatic spiritual leader who claims an authentic, divine revelation, etc
What distinguishes Mormonism from the others, however, is its "Made In America" stamp.
There is evidence that strongly suggests that monotheism originated in Egypt and was institutionalized during the reign of the renegade Pharoah Akhenaton (his One, True God was the sun).
There is a theory that Moses was not only a contemporary of Akhenaton, but was raised in his court and was first introduced to the concept of One God therein, not in his old age with the epiphany on Mt. Sinai, as is written in the Torah.
What that would indicate, academically speaking, is that Moses exported an Egyptain deity and made it Jewish (as demanded by the new culture, language, and geography).
Fast forward a millennium and a half or so:
The Jesus Movement is attempting to liberalize and reform Judaism from within. It was bound to happen as Palestine, first under Greek and now Roman occupation, had a new culture, language, and even geography, and traditional Judaism was not as compatible with that as it was with the theocratic days of King Josiah centuries earlier.
The earliest Christians--Jews-- converted many fellow tribesmen but the liberal movement was soon stymied by conservative Jewish resistance, and so fled and spread outward across the Graeco-Roman world.
Soon, what began as a Jewish sect became a Jewish export that became Greek, and a Greek New Testament was appended to the Torah (and hence referred to as the Old Testament), as determined by the new culture, language, and geography.
The new Hellenistic faith, however, was operating in the Roman Empire, and as it spread ever outward and planted roots in Rome itself, the Greek export became Roman, and the Greek Bible--comprising the Old and New Testament--was re-written in Latin and interpreted this way or that away from the Greek Orthodox Christians, as determined, again, and as always, by the new culture, language, and geography.
A few centuries later, the Arab Mohammad picks up the same ball and runs with it, but makes it Arab (as determined by Middle Eastern culture, geography, and language) and writes a new book about it called the Quran, claiming that the novelty of the revelations within it supercedes the older Judeo-Christian renderings (making it a sort of Newer Testament of sorts).
Meanwhile, back on the continent, Henry VIII gets tired of Rome trying to tell him what to do and Anglicizes the Roman Catholic faith to make it more suitable for an entirely different culture, geography, and language--which indeed seems to have been the dynamic occurring through each peregrinating customization of what began as a renegade Egyptain cult of the sun-disc Aton three thousand years or so earlier.
The contemporary northern Europeans--namely Luther in Germany--had similar sentiments but weren't about to embrace what was essentially an English version of the Roman Catholic Church, and put their own cultural spin (as determined by Germanic culture, geography, and language).
Meanwhile, America had been discovered by Roman Catholics but the Anglican church wanted a piece of that New World and so did a whole bunch of other denominations that splintered away from Henry VIII's and Luther's ever newer-and-newer testaments, and soon America was being plied and plowed by all kinds of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants who killed the indigenous Indians who couldn't be converted and imported slaves from Africa who could.
However, this was a new world, with a new culture, geography, and language, and, just like Moses, Jesus, St. Paul, Mohammad, King Henry VIII, and Martin Luther, a man came along who felt yet another addendum was required that was specially customized for the New World.
That man was Joseph Smith, and the new-new-New Testament is the Book of Mormon.
So you see, fellow Americans, objectively speaking, the only thing unusual about the Mormon faith, as a religion, is, indeed, its distinctive "Made in America" stamp.