Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and his wife Ann, center, hug former Nevada first lady Dema Guinn, after a news conference with Donald Trump, who is endorsing Romney, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, at Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Republican candidate Mitt Romney's religion has been under a microscope since he started his first presidential campaign in 2006, drawing criticism and leading him to give a speech on religion's place in politics.

Now two reporters at Politico say the Mormon faith that many have seen as a hindrance to Romney may end up being his ace in the hole as the GOP nomination race shifts west. The story says the robust Mormon populations in Nevada, Arizona and Colorado will help Romney in his quest for the Republican seat.

"There’s nothing unusual about that in American politics — Kennedy and Joe Lieberman and, for that matter, Barack Obama — all had ethnic and religious followings that took special pride in their accomplishments," Burns and Haberman wrote. "Romney’s just the first member of his faith to reach such political prominence."