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Mitt Romney's Mormon dilemma: To reach voters, should he discuss his faith?

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, a prominent Mormon, warned recently that the Obama campaign will “throw the Mormon church at [Romney] like you can’t believe.” When asked about the comment, Rep. Raul Labrador (R) of Idaho, also Mormon, said, “I think the media is going to do that for the Obama campaign.”

But Congressman Labrador went on to advise Romney to open up about his experiences as a missionary and lay pastor.  “He should talk about who he is and what formed him,” Labrador said April 8 on “Meet the Press.”

“All the good things he did in helping people with troubled marriages and financial troubles could be very helpful, but he’s got to feel comfortable talking about it,” says GOP pollster Whit Ayres, who advised former candidate Jon Huntsman, also a Mormon. “That’s the thing. You can’t encourage a guy to go out and talk about stuff he just really doesn’t feel comfortable talking about in public. But he’s got a great story to tell.”

Polling on the “Mormon factor” shows Romney’s challenge. In January, a survey by YouGov found that 20 percent of Republicans nationally – and 31 percent of Southern evangelical Republicans – would not vote for a “qualified Mormon” for president. Yet Romney is prevailing anyway in the GOP nomination fight, despite losing the evangelical vote in most primaries. Many born-again Christians see Mormonism as a cult and not Christian.

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