Top Stories of 2007, #8: Mitt Romney's run for the presidency

Top Stories of 2007, #8: Mitt Romney's run for the presidency

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Carole Mikita reporting Mitt Romney's run for the presidency has brought focus on his faith. That means an increased interest in Utah, headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Before Romney announced his run for the presidency, his staff put out feelers about how his Latter-day Saint faith would fare with voters. They spoke with a couple of Utahns.

"They were very interested in how evangelicals might respond potentially to a presidency, or rather, a presidential run by Mitt Romney," said Rev. Gregory Johnson, evangelical minister.

"Are we voting for Mormonism or against Mormonism, or are we voting for Mitt Romney? That's the question," said BYU religion professor Robert Millett.

A month later, Romney began his campaign. He's made several trips to Utah since, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Romney's religion has surfaced many times. The first, when Janet Cohen, wife of former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, expressed skepticism about Romney's run by leveling accusations against the LDS Church and its past policy on blacks.

Top Stories of 2007, #8: Mitt Romney's run for the presidency

"It's based on ignorance. People don't know the facts, and they're making assumptions. If you're gonna make an assumption on national television, get your facts straight," Genesis Group founder Darius Gray said.

Not since Romney took over the 2002 Olympics has the LDS Church faced so much media attention. More than a year ago, the faith's public affairs department upgraded the Web site in anticipation of requests for stories.

"Last week alone, we were dealing with four different television networks, New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today--all of whom are asking different kinds of questions," said Michael Otterson, of the LDS Church public affairs department, in July.

Those questions eventually led to a decision: As John F. Kennedy did in 1960, Mitt Romney delivered a "Faith in America" speech. "No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith, for if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths," Romney said.

Hundreds of thousands of Utahns watched and approved of the speech, but how voters feel in key primary states will make or break Romney's presidential bid.

Romney faces his first vote with the Iowa caucuses just one week from today.

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