Obama: Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr.
Though Obama’s relationship with his former pastor Jeremiah Wright has been covered more than the Kennedy assassination, it actually remains somewhat murky. Obama told reporters in late April that Wright “was never my, quote-unquote, ‘spiritual adviser,’ … he was never my ‘spiritual mentor.’” And yet the two seemed to have shared a very meaningful connection before the imbroglio forced Obama to distance himself from the preacher. In a speech in Philadelphia on March 18 2008, Obama said Wright was “like family,” “strengthened my faith,” and “helped introduce me to my Christian faith.” The two met in 1985 to discuss Obama’s community organizing and how Wright could help; in 1988, Obama responded to his first altar call at Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Obama borrowed the title of one of Wright’s sermons, “The Audacity of Hope,” for his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention and his second book. Their relationship is well documented. In April 2007, long before Wright was on the political radar, the New York Times had it that Obama “tends to turn to his minister at moments of frustration.” And a January 2007 Chicago Tribune article does indeed characterize Wright as Obama’s “spiritual mentor,” someone who keeps Obama’s “moral compass calibrated,” and to whom Obama turned “before making any bold political moves” — including running for president. Apparently he was asking the wrong person. Wright’s offensive statements on everything from 9/11 to AIDS have done more damage to Obama than anything else during his campaign for president. “I may not know him as well as I thought,” Obama has admitted.
Romney: His Father
“George Romney was a broad-shouldered Bible-quoting broth of a man who burns brightly with the fire of missionary zeal,” read one line in the 1959 Time cover story on the then-CEO of American Motors. He and his good friend J. Willard Marriott, the former head of the hotel dynasty, both Mormon, had undertaken their two-year missionary stints — George Romney ending up in Scotland. It was an experience that, according to his biographer Tom Mahoney, Romney’s father treasured above virtually all others. Romney followed in his father’s footsteps and mentions his example as a leading reason. “On a mission, your faith in Jesus Christ either evaporates or it becomes deeper,” he told the Times in 2007. “For me it became much deeper.” While Romney has avoided discussing his religion too deeply — it remains, as ever, a possible flashpoint for conservative evangelical voters — his father was undoubtedly a driving force in his religious life. He certainly was for Romney’s wife, Ann Davies, whom he would drive to weekly services during her conversion process; and for Romney’s brother-in-law, who also converted to Mormonism, with George Romney as his sponsor.