Mitt Romney Moves Toward Presidential Run; Mormon Faith Still an Issue?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced Monday that he is taking the first steps toward a presidential run by forming an exploratory committee.

Romney announced the start of his exploratory committee with a YouTube video. He said his knowledge as a business leader is what America needs to fix high foreclosure and unemployment rates and the economic unrest.

As the founder of a business, he said, “I learned how America competes with companies in other countries, why jobs leave and how jobs are created here at home.”

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He contends that President Obama and his administration lack this business sense and that America needs new leadership. “With able leadership, America’s best days are still ahead,” he said.

Romney is now the third Republican, in addition to Herman Cain and Tim Pawlenty, to launch a committee raising funds for a potential presidential run. (Michele Bachmann still has not officially announced the formation of a committee. CNN reported that an anonymous source close to the Minnesota Congresswoman told them she would establish a committee as early as June.)

Romney, a candidate for the GOP nomination in 2008, was a close contender behind eventual nominee John McCain. In his 2008 CPAC address, he noted he had 4 million supporters compared to McCain’s 4.7 million.

During his 2008 bid, Romney wrestled for votes and his Mormon faith proved to be a hurdle for some. A 2007 Pew poll showed that 41 percent of white evangelicals who went to church weekly said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon.

This year, Christian leaders are already cautious about candidates with different beliefs. In a recent interview with The Christian Post, Mark Driscoll, pastor and co-author of Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe warned Christian leaders to be careful about publicly supporting candidates. He noted that "sometimes those candidates turn out to be not that moral.” He named Newt Gingrich as an example, pointing to his infidelity during his first marriage.

Driscoll also acknowledged the struggle Christians will have when considering Romney for president. “He supports our values; he doesn’t worship our God,” he stated.

"To me, we've got to be careful with our candidates, but we've got to be clear in our convictions."

John Green, a Pew analyst and expert in religion and politics at the University of Akron in Ohio, said in a February 2011 commentary that Mormonism continues to be among the least popular religions in America. White evangelical Protestants, he continued, view the faith's doctrines with suspicion and its missionaries as "competitors.”

Meanwhile, David E. Campbell, a political scientist at the University Notre Dame and a Mormon, said Romney's first run at the White House "did not change attitudes toward Mormons.”

Some potential GOP candidates who have professed their Christian faith in one form or another include Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Bachman, Cain and Pawlenty. Both Huckabee and Palin have held top spots with Romney in 2011 polls. Romney hopes to hold on to the top spot with his message about economic recovery and fiscal discipline in government.

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