A move towards a Mormon president

romney in grayMassachusetts Governor Mitt Romney didn't exactly announce that he was running for president last week, but he certainly made as forward a move as any major candidate so far. What's interesting about this announcement is that it's before the 2006 elections. Sure, Romney was forced to decide before then -- he has said he is "testing the waters" for a presidential run -- but most candidates have the luxury of waiting to make so a bold move until after the 2006 elections. Positioning before this day means little as the 2006 elections will lay the landscape for 2008. Look for all major candidates to make bold moves sometime in January/February 2007.

But enough of the speculation and onto the news. The first thing we over at GetReligion think of when we hear the name "Romney" is "Mormon." And most assuredly this factor will get more play in the future than at the end of this same-day Boston Globe story.

There has also been an undercurrent of concern among Christian conservatives, particularly in the vital South, rooted in his Mormon faith. One political operative in South Carolina branded the religion a "cult."

The Romney-Mormon story first broke last June and the line was that "He's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly." And then in August, The Atlantic jumped ahead of the story on "the Latter-day Saint who serves as the governor of Massachusetts." And finally, Romney's "Evangelic Problem" was laid out in detail in the Washington Monthly in September.

Most of the news stories surrounding the Romney-not-running-for-governor announcement made little mention of the Mormon factor, but look for a variety of interesting stories exploring this issue as primary season draws closer and how it'll impact the 2008 GOP primary where for the first time in decades neither side will have an "incumbent" running as a sitting president or a VP.

A bevy of interesting politics-religion stories are waiting to unfold on Romney's Mormonism, what exactly Mormons, or Later Day Saints, believe and whether or not evangelicals will accept Romney who is outside the fold religiously but could fill in nicely politically. And what exactly is an evangelical politician these days anyway? As Romney runs for president, the term will receive a level of scrutiny matching if not exceeding any it received in past elections.

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