Romney has lifelong ties to Mormonism. His father, the former governor of Michigan, had been born in a Mormon colony in Mexico and was active in the church. Willard “Mitt” Romney attended Brigham Young University and worked as a Mormon missionary in France. In the early 1980s, Romney was appointed as bishop of the Mormon congregation in Belmont, Mass.
He rarely talked about his faith in the 2008 race. As he began to prepare to run again he faced new questions of whether he could overcome intolerance.
“The great majority of Americans understand that this nation was founded on the principle of religious tolerance and liberty so most people do not make their decision based on someone’s faith. But you don’t worry about that,” he said in 2011 on ABC’s The View.
Romney garnered a dismal 11 percent evangelical support in South Carolina in 2008 and his faith was a distinct factor, even as he drew some top endorsements, such as Bob Jones III, chancellor of the ultra-Christian college in Greenville that bears his name.
“As a Christian I am completely opposed to the doctrines of Mormonism,” Jones said in 2007. “But I’m not voting for a preacher. I’m voting for a president. It boils down to who can best represent conservative American beliefs, not religious beliefs.”
This time Romney is buffered by the national preoccupation with jobs and fiscal issues as well as a field of rivals who are splitting the social conservative vote. Romney, 64, is also familiar to voters.
And Mormonism has slowly gained acceptance with Americans.