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Utah party leaders Jim Dabakis, Thomas Wright comment on Mitt Romney's Mormon faith in light of Super Tuesday results

By Kurt Manwaring

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 7:17 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and his wife Ann, talk to reporters on his campaign plane before taking off for Boston, in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

Gerald Herbert, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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The “Mormon Moment” has been gaining momentum over the last several years. As Super Tuesday results trickled in Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s religion was still making news.

An awareness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the American consciousness has certainly outlived a “15 minutes of fame” news cycle. Perhaps starting with the Olympics in 2002 and then gaining a burst of speed when Romney first ran for president in 2008, more and more people are familiar with the global faith based out of Salt Lake City.

In 2008, Romney’s faith was thought to be an impediment to his run for the White House. In an effort to clarify his beliefs and the fact that his ecclesiastical leaders would not be making decisions were he elected, Romney gave a speech during the last election cycle that was reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s speech aimed at quelling fears over the possibility of a Catholic president.

In 2012, Romney’s Mormon religion still appears to play a role — though not as significantly as it did four years ago.

In two separate interviews with KSL.com, Utah Democratic Party State Chairman Jim Dabakis and Utah Republican Party State Chairman Thomas Wright both commented on how they think Romney’s religion has impacted his current bid for the White House.

In commenting generally on Super Tuesday results, Dabakis stated that he believed Romney’s faith was potentially a roadblock — both for Romney’s candidacy and for Republicans in general.

“It’s remarkable that the Republicans are in such disarray that they just seem unable to pick a candidate,” Dabakis said.

“And the bitterness and the divisiveness within the party is really not good for our system in general. I hope that it’s not true that a lot of this divisiveness is … because of the LDS factor, but I fear that it is.”

Dabakis stated that he believed the last prejudice left in American presidential politics is unfounded fears about Mormonism. He professed his belief that religious bigotry is “a shame,” “a disgrace,” and “very, very unfortunate.”

“I can give you a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney,” Dabakis said. “But one of them isn’t that he’s Mormon."

Utah Republican Party State Chairman Wright spoke briefly on Romney's faith as well.

Wright indicated that whatever prejudices Romney faces today pale in comparison to what he was up against in 2008.

“I think (Romney’s religion) plays less of a role than it has in the past, and I think people are looking for a leader.”

And just as Dabakis could provide a thousand reasons why no one should vote for Romney, Wright listed a number of reasons why voters should cast their ballot for Utah’s adopted son.

However, a common theme is found in the thoughts of Utah’s two party leaders: Romney’s religion is neither a reason to vote for or against him.

Kurt Manwaring is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the University of Utah. He is a consultant with Manwaring Consulting, LLC and maintains a personal blog at www.kurtsperspective.blogspot.com.

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