Mitt Romney's two Ms

Sridhar Pappu is a masterful writer of profiles -- just a few issues back in The Atlantic, he wrote an article on Geraldo Rivera that was both respectful and critical. In the September Atlantic he writes eight pages on Mitt Romney, the Latter-day Saint who serves as the governor of Massachusetts. Romney's LDS faith is not a central focus of the story, but when it does come up toward the end of the essay, it's a doozy. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was surprised by the strength of Romney's run against him in 1994, brings the fireworks:

I was winding down our conversation when Senator Kennedy interrupted me. "The one question you didn't ask," he said, "was about Mormonism -- whether it would hurt him in a national campaign."

"I was about to," I said.

"The answer is no," Kennedy said. "We've moved on. That died with my brother Jack."

Romeny himself says he serves the people, not the Book of Mormon. But though the matter should have died with the election of Jack Kennedy (who himself spoke on religious freedom at the Mormon Tabernacle in 1960), Romney's religion remains -- as a prominent Republican strategist who worked on both George W. Campaigns told me -- "the other M."

"There are two Ms -- Massachusetts and Mormonism -- and they're the elephants in the room," this strategist said. "And the question is whether they step on him or ride him to victory. I think that's a challenge for him to overcome in conservative Christian circles. Romney's people have to have a strategy to beat it, to win on that point."

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