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Why Mormonism might not be a problem for Mitt Romney

A poll released Wednesday suggests that a minority of Americans are 'entirely comfortable' with the idea of a Mormon president. But voters' concerns about the problems facing the country might override any concern they have about Mitt Romney's religion.

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Of course, there’s always the possibility that with such a large Republican field, if those leery of Mormonism were to coalesce around a non-Mormon, that could pose a problem for the Mormon candidates. But how likely is that to happen?

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For now, Romney is picking up steam as the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. He was the choice of 25 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, followed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 15 percent (despite her lack of clarity on whether she’s running), and businessman Herman Cain with 9 percent. Huntsman got 1 percent.

In the last national Quinnipiac poll of GOP voters, taken April 26 to May 1, Romney got 18 percent and Ms. Palin got 15 percent.

The Quinnipiac poll did not ask voters why they might have concerns about a Mormon in the White House. But in a way, it’s hard to see what the problem could be.

As the latest cover of Newsweek points out, the nation is having a “Mormon moment,” with examples of successful church members at every turn, from the US Senate (majority leader Harry Reid) to “Highly Effective” author Stephen Covey to actress Katherine Heigl. On Broadway, the musical satire “The Book of Mormon” is a smash hit.

Mormons attest to the value their community places in family, hard work, and clean living. The church is now the fourth-largest religious denomination in the country, at 6 million members, with 14 million worldwide, according to Newsweek.

Of course, the church’s history of polygamy – a practice abandoned by mainstream Mormonism more than 100 years ago – is a continuing source of caricature. And the fact that Mormons follow an alternate scripture, in addition to the Bible, leads some Christians to declare Mormonism a non-Christian cult.

But with US unemployment now at 9.1 percent, the housing market still reeling, the nation mired in multiple wars, and a looming debt crisis, the focus on candidates’ faith may be overdone. If in November 2012 voters face a choice of President Obama and Romney, and all these problems continue to rage, where and how the Republican nominee chooses to worship probably won’t matter.

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In the video below, Mitt Romney spoke in 2007 on Faith in America:

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