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Early scrutiny of two Mormon candidates

Published: Wednesday, June 29 2011 6:30 a.m. MDT

How will Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman Jr. fare in their bids for president of the United States?

Let the debates begin.

The two Mormon candidates have already been the subject of several media reports, articles and political discussions around the country.

The Las Vegas Sun’s Anjeanett Damon details the Mormon paths of each man. They have much in common. Both had fathers who were involved in politics. Both men hail from prominent Mormon families, and both served LDS missions in foreign countries. Both made their fortunes as business executives.

Their educational paths were different. Romney attended Stanford and BYU before going to Harvard. Huntsman dropped out of high school before getting his GED and attending the University of Utah and the University of Pennsylvania. Each has given a different response when asked about their Mormon faith.

So who will win the GOP nomination?

“It’s very possible they will split the Mormon vote,” said former state Sen. Warren Hardy, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Damon’s article. “They are a couple of people who are very alike philosophically and who have some of the same challenges.”

An article in the Washington Post agrees that Romney and Huntsman will have to compete for support among Mormons.

“It’s not automatic that this Mormon is going to support a Mormon,” said Gary Lawrence, a Mormon who is a political pollster in Southern California in the Post report.

William McKenzie, an editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News, asked readers how Huntsman and Romney should handle their Mormonism.

Answers varied from "don’t address faith" to "embrace it."

One reader, James Denison, advised, “Tell the truth and trust the people.”

An ABC news report by Lauren Vance says Huntsman and Romney will be challenged by Mormon stereotypes.

Romney has already survived scrutiny in his 2008 campaign.

“The negative stereotypes will likely be a challenge for Romney and Huntsman. America will have its chance have to wait and see just how heavy religious history plays a part in modern-day politics,” Vance wrote.

“In a recent Pew Research poll, one out of every four voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate if he or she were Mormon.”

On the other hand, Stephen Prothero, a CNN Belief Blog contributor, thinks the extent to which a candidate discusses and emphasizes his or her religion could change public opinion.

“Roughly half of Americans today say they would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist for president and 22 percent say they would not vote for an otherwise qualified Mormon," Prothero wrote.

"Nonetheless, I think there is a huge difference between considering a Mormon president in the abstract and considering a particular Mormon candidate. In other words, some of those who say that they would not vote for an otherwise qualified Mormon for president might vote for Romney or Huntsman."

Email: ttoone@desnews.com

Twitter: tbtoone

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