Citing Google online search data, U.S. News & World Report is reporting that "interest in Mitt Romney's Mormon faith is higher now than it has ever been before."
In a story by staff writer Elizabeth Flock, the magazine says that while searches related to the Republican presidential candidate's religion have "ebbed and flowed" during the presidential campaign, "searches for the term 'Romney Mormon' saw a significant spike" in August.
"That spike came on the heels of a controversial Bloomberg BusinessWeek cover about Mormonism, and as prominent Mormons called for Romney to open up about his faith," Flock wrote. "The increase also came in the weeks before the Republican National Convention, when Romney opened up about his religion to Parade Magazine and allowed a reporter to accompany him to church."
Interestingly, if you Google "Mitt Romney Mormon" or even just "Mitt Romney," you will see a Google ad linking to a page called "Mormons and Politics," an official website of the LDS Church. The website proclaims that "Mormons Are Politically Diverse" and indicates that "while the (LDS) Church is politically neutral, Mormons are encouraged to participate in the political process where they live."
A story on Politico says that the church's search ad "is a shift from the norm as far as the kinds of search ads that normally show up on Romney's name, the vast majority of which are campaign-sponsored on either side of the aisle."
But writer Emily Schultheis says the ad is "a sign that the Mormon Church sees an opportunity to educate voters who are searching for Romney about the church — and to explain that the church itself does not align with one party or the other."
Although the "Romney Mormon" searches have declined somewhat in September so far, Flock indicates that it still "surpasses any other topic Democrats have used to attack Romney," such as "Bain," "tax returns," "dog on roof" and "etch a sketch."
"The topic 'Mormon,’ ” she writes, "has simply gained interest as election day approaches."
Flock also says that President Barack Obama's re-election team is "keenly aware" of the national interest in Romney's Mormonism. She quotes a Fox News report indicating that Democratic strategists have discussed "what might be called the nuclear option: unleashing an attack on Romney's Mormon faith via the mainstream media."
She adds: "There has been no indication of that kind of attack yet."
Indeed, quite the opposite seems to be true. In the Sept. 10 issue of Time magazine, President Obama is interviewed by Time's White House correspondent Michael Scherer. At one point in the interview, Scherer asks the president if there is anything about Mitt Romney that he admires.
"He strikes me as somebody who is very disciplined," Obama said. "And I think that that is a quality that obviously contributed to his success as a private-equity guy. I think he takes his faith very seriously. And as somebody who takes my Christian faith seriously, I appreciate that he seems to walk the walk and not just be talking the talk when it comes to his participation in his church."