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This time, his camp appears to be banking on the notion that his religion will be less exotic this time and that voter angst over the nation’s fiscal health will push people to Mr. Romney, who received a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard, balanced budgets in Massachusetts, and saved the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, Mr. Huntsman has said he does not expect Mormonism to become an issue but has drawn criticism for describing his religion as “hard to define.”

Mark DeMoss, a well-connected figure in the evangelical community and a Romney supporter, said he thinks “the economy is in such a bad place that the faith of a candidate I think is diminished a little bit in importance” in the 2012 election.

But Mr. DeMoss also recognizes that some evangelicals will “automatically be more comfortable” with a candidate who shares their religion, such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“I think that’s unfortunate, and I think it’s a superficial approach to a very important matter — but it is a reality,” he said. “I don’t subscribe to that school of thought.”

Mr. DeMoss is challenging evangelical friends and religious leaders to reconsider Mr. Romney, urging them to look past his church’s theology and take into account who is most capable of winning the nomination, raising the funds necessary to defeat President Obama in the general election, and governing as commander in chief.
“My pastor shares all of my beliefs in theology, but I don’t want him to be president,” he said.

Ralph E. Reed Jr., who founded the FFC, which is putting on this weekend’s values conference, told The Times that Mr. Romney largely answered questions about his religious beliefs in the last campaign, including his well-documented shift from pro-choice to pro-life.

“Given the fact that Ronald Reagan became pro-life and George H.W. Bush became pro-life, and there certainly have been an awful lot of other people who we helped elect who were pro-choice and became pro-life that I tend to think that is not going to be as big an issue for Romney this time around,” said Mr. Reed, who is best known as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition in the 1990s.

“I think he is much more likely to have to answer questions about Massachusetts health care now than answer questions about his religious beliefs or whether he is genuinely pro-life,” he said.

Whatever the case, Mr. Crosby credits Mr. Romney with embracing, rather than running away from, his Mormon roots. That steadfastness, he says, may not pay off with a victory in the 2012 election, but it has helped erase some of the misguided notions about his religion.

“I see the potential success here is in a broader, longer perspective,” he said. “Within a decade or two, it will be a nonissue to have a Mormon running for president.”