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Will Huntsman and Romney face the ‘Mormon Issue' in 2012?



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The buzz about the 2012 presidential election has brought up the "Mormon issue" --again.

That's especially true here in Utah, with Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. both speculated to seek the republican nomination.

During the 2008 contest, Romney had to address that issue head on. At one point in his campaign, he made a speech dealing specifically about his religion.

Now, with Huntsman and Romney in the picture -- both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- will the "Mormon" question be such a big deal this time?

During the 2008 campaign, numerous national polls showed a significant percentage of voters would not consider voting for a candidate of the LDS faith, which certainly hurt Romney's chances.


I think the central issue is going to be what are we going to do with this country. That's really a challenging situation right now.

–Norm Bangerter


But, we're several years down the road now. Have things changed?

"I think that it's still a problem, but it's a much less problem than it used to be. People are starting to understand," said former U-S Senator, Jake Garn, R-Utah.

Garn, along with former Utah Governor Norm Bangerter and former congressman Jim Hansen, have all dealt with their LDS religion during their time in office. All agree that public perception has changed somewhat since the last presidential campaign, but the issue hasn't gone away entirely.

"I think we'll just have to wait and see," Bangerter said. "There will be a lot of discussion and there will be some anti (LDS sentiment). I think it's probably still a bit of a challenge, and I don't think it ought to be."

Hansen says Romney broke the ice, as far as concerns about his religion are concerned, in 2008.

"This has had its shot across the bow and people have had a chance to vet it, chew on it, kick it around," he said. "And I think out of that, basically people are saying, ‘Well, why not?'"

Neither Romney nor Huntsman has confirmed a definite presidential run, but both have been in the national spotlight lately. Huntsman just resigned his post as Ambassador to China, and Newsweek recently did a major profile.

Romney has been on a book tour, and did David Letterman's "Top Ten" list the other night.

So, should a candidate's religion matter?

Bangerter says there are bigger things to worry about.

"I don't think that will be the central issue", he said. "I think the central issue is going to be what are we going to do with this country. That's really a challenging situation right now, that they're all (possible candidates) having a tough time grappling with and taking it by the horns and doing what needs to be done, because we put that off for far too long."

E-mail: kmccord@ksl.com

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UtahPolitics
Keith McCord

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