SALT LAKE CITY — A Mormon reporter who spent the last year covering the campaign of Mitt Romney is detailing his experience - and the gradual change in perceptions about his faith since the campaign began.
BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins writes Romney's religion was "too awkward to discuss in an open forum" at the start of the 2012 campaign, when it was the topic of whispered discussions and private e-mail chains among the non-Mormon press corps.
Among the questions non-LDS reporters were asking: "Does Romney really believe he will get his own planet when he dies? Does he baptize dead Jews in his temples?"
He doesn't believe those are questions that would be asked the next time a Mormon runs for president.
Coppins told KSL Newsradio he believes the so-called "Mormon moment" is far from over - that the impact of Romney's campaign could well be that what was once "weird" to those who are unfamiliar with the LDS faith is now accepted as part of the mainstream.
"We all started going to church with him on Sundays," Coppins said in a live interview Thursday morning. "Mitt Romney tried to go to church every Sunday, regardless of where he was in the country, and a small group of press would always tag along."
That, Coppins says, opened the door for deeper discussions with his colleagues.
"They would ask me questions about the hymns, about what the sacrament was, and I think that the press ended up coming away with an appreciation of Mormonism and also a recognition that it's not all that different from a lot of other (churches)," Coppins told KSL.
Romney himself wasn't vocal about his faith on the campaign trail.
As Coppins writes, "He regularly employed variations of the declaration, ‘I'm not running for pastor-in-chief.'"
Campaign aides confided to Coppins that was a conscious decision born out of the 2008 primary campaign, when anti-Mormon sentiment, particularly in the fall of 2007, was frustrating for the candidate. It wasn't until August of 2012 when reporters were invited to attend church with the candidate and surrogates began to answer questions about his religion when it came up.
It wasn't until the Republican National Convention that Romney himself seemed to embrace his background, in a speech where he described his roots.
By the end of the campaign, those hushed conversations Coppins had overheard among members of the press corps were no longer hushed or secret. Coppins describes another exchange between other reporters on the campaign press bus in a battleground state - out in the open, no one whispering. What was once the topic of gossip was now matter-of-fact to the non-LDS reporters.