(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Richard Piatt reporting
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today confronted skepticism about his faith during what has become his most important campaign speech to date.
"I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs," he said.
The Romney campaign tried to get the biggest bang they could out of this speech by holding it at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, with the former president introducing him, to talk about something people have been wondering about for months.
Romney took a leap of faith to talk about his faith. It's a risk he took because of sagging poll numbers in Iowa, because of constant questions about being Mormon, and because it might just help attract attention in general.
It's too early to tell how voters will react, but this Romney supporter--also of the Jewish faith--thought Romney did just right. "When we're talking about someone who wants to be president of the United States, the issues are character and capability, not how you worship, whether you worship," David Nierenberg said.
Heavy on American history, but light on details of LDS doctrine, Romney pointed out his faith is an important part of who he is but pointed out that it's not all he is.
In his long-awaited "Faith in America" speech, Romney tried to strike a balance between acknowledging the distinctiveness of his faith with touching too lightly on what many consider a touchy subject.
"I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith," Romney told the crowd. "When I place my hand on the bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."
Romney says he balanced his faith and political power as governor of Massachusetts and he can do the same thing as president.
Romney also attempted to address both diversity and the common ground people of faith share. "What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs are the same as those of other faiths," he said.
Members of this audience, many who are also members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, think he did a good job of addressing those similarities. "Sometimes we focus too much on what's different in churches, when his talk invited us to look at the common things," Church Education Coordinator David Garlick said.
"I think he was able to inspire to people of faith that with the plurality of faith we have here, there is a common good we need to aspire to," Rev. Greg Johnson, of Standing Together, said.
However, the bottom line will be: Is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints able to be elected as President of the United States? Supporters say if anyone can do it, Romney can.
But some say this Kennedy-like, faith-based address may have been overdue. "Enough came up over the months that caused people to wonder where he stood, to what extent his faith would impact his political situation," explained Robert Millet, BYU professor of religious education.
"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become a spokesman for his faith, for if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths," Romney said.
There are plenty of other issues Romney stands for that he says make him the Republican candidate next year.