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LDS faith will remain a part of the race for presidency

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Oct. 19, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The question of faith emerges off and on as one of the issues along the campaign trail in the GOP race for president. But both Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman's campaigns say neither of them mind talking about their beliefs in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It was a topic both governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney wanted to dismiss quickly. Perry distanced himself from one of his supporters' comments that Latter-day Saints aren't Christians. But both Romney and Jon Huntsman should probably be prepared to keep talking about it.

UNLV political science professor David Damore says LDS support might be a "plus" aspect for Romney in swing states like Nevada.

"To a large degree, what Romney is counting on is that, and the establishment wing of the Republican Party to sort of promote him here," he said.

There are going to be some people who vote against Mitt based on his religion. A small minority of people. There's nothing we can do about that.

–Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesperson for Romney

Civility about faith runs head-on into rhetoric online and in popular media. For example, at an recent event, comedian Bill Maher openly mocked sacred LDS tenants like garments, baptism of the dead and celestial marriages.

The harshness of such comments will inevitably trickle into the mainstream as the stakes get higher, according to Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation. But, he says, issues like jobs, the economy and immigration are more important to most conservatives.

"The good thing about what I've seen so far is that when those questions come up, they're swatted down in quick fashion. I don't think there's any resonance to that, I don't think it's going to last," said Franc.

Last night, Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Romney's spokespeople, said the Romney doesn't mind.

"There are going to be some people who vote against Mitt based on his religion, a small minority of people. There's nothing we can do about that," he said.

Faith is a touchy subject, but then politics can be war; and it's still possible a candidate will use religion as a secret weapon, even if it's used behind the scenes.

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