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Mitt Romney: proudly, quietly Mormon

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In addition, Mormons' past practice of polygamy – disavowed by the church in 1890 – and the HBO series "Big Love," which features a modern-day polygamous family in Utah, do Romney no favors. Ditto Romney's own well-known ancestral history of polygamy. Mormons' successful efforts to win converts also make evangelical Christians uncomfortable, even as the LDS Church loses members to evangelical proselytizing. Some non-Mormons worry that a President Romney would be the ultimate missionary, making the church more attractive worldwide.

This fall, an independently produced documentary called "A Mormon President" – examining the history of church founder Joseph Smith's presidential campaign – will bring yet more attention to politics and Mormonism.

The speech

One big tactical question hanging over the Romney campaign is whether the candidate should give a major speech that addresses his faith and how he would relate to his church's central leadership if elected. That is, should he follow in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign, when he faced similar doubts about his Roman Catholic faith and delivered a groundbreaking address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. Romney has read Kennedy's speech.

In late July, Romney went from "maybe" to "more likely than not" on the speech question. But he cannot say when, and has yet to weigh pros and cons.

"I don't know that there's a lot of downside risk," he says. "The question is when's the right time…. So we'll let people think about it in my team, but it's not anything imminent."

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