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He was raised Mormon but said he is not very active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Huntsman’s wife, Mary Kaye, who was raised Episcopalian, told Vogue magazine, “We are a family that combines two, and it works for us.”

Religion scholars have noted the growing popularity of the “spiritual, not religious” approach to faith, so Huntsman’s outlook would resonate with many Americans, although people who hold this view are hardly an organized political group.

Some Democrats are trying to persuade Obama to return to the religious language he used in the 2008 race as one way to clarify his values and inspire voters, even though the strategy will raise questions about Wright and about the misperception among some voters that the president is Muslim.

Surveys have found that around 40 percent of voters say they don’t know his religion.

“For the first time, we’re not only interested in whether someone is religious, which is essentially a question of, ‘Do you have a morality that the voter can identify with?’” Flake said. “It appears that there’s a significant portion of the electorate that’s interested in what the particular theology of the candidate is. Do they believe in Jesus? If so, what kind of Jesus do you believe in?”