Taking Mormonism Seriously: The Big Test (The New Republic, December 21, 2006)
Within days of stepping down as governor of Massachusetts on January 4, Mitt Romney is expected to announce his candidacy for president. Shortly after that, Romney will almost certainly need to deliver a major speech about his Mormon faith--a speech in the mold of John F. Kennedy's 1960 address to the Baptist ministers of Houston, Texas, in which the candidate attempted to reassure voters that they had no reason to fear his Catholicism. Yet Romney's task will be much more complicated. Whereas Kennedy set voters' minds at ease by declaring in unambiguous terms that he considered the separation of church and state to be "absolute," Romney intends to run for president as the candidate of the religious right, which believes in blurring the distinction between politics and religion. Romney thus needs to convince voters that they have nothing to fear from his Mormonism while simultaneously placing that faith at the core of his identity and his quest for the White House.
This is a task that may very well prove impossible. Romney's strategy relies on the assumption that public suspicion of his Mormonism--a recent poll showed that 43 percent of Americans would never vote for a Mormon--is rooted in ignorance and that this suspicion will therefore diminish as voters learn more about his faith. It is far more likely, however, that as citizens educate themselves about the political implications of Mormon theology, concerns about the possibility of a Mormon president will actually increase. And these apprehensions will be extremely difficult to dispel--because they will be thoroughly justified.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson