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The speech

"When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God," Romney will say today, according to excerpts released by his campaign. "If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States." 

More: "It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter - on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course… "We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

Plenty of previews today. Here's one from the Arizona Republic comparing JFK to Romney. "Kennedy's goal that day was simple: He wanted to make clear his belief in the separation of church and state. Romney's job is more nuanced. His religious conviction is seen as a political strength by analysts. But he may want to avoid delving into the particulars of his religion."

"'It would be deeply problematic to get into the minutiae of his religion, the same as it would for any religion,' said Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School.'"

But the New York Times' preview -- which says the speech "is being viewed as the biggest moment of his presidential campaign" -- contains a different take. "Vanderbilt University announced the results this week of a study that examined bias against Mormons and tested various strategies for combating it. The survey concluded that specific information to dispel erroneous perceptions, like that the church still condones polygamy, was far more effective than simply calling for religious tolerance. 'It turns out, the tolerance message doesn't help,' said John Geer, a Vanderbilt political science professor who took part in the study. 'What counters this bias is actual information demystifying it.'"

Bob Novak writes, "Romney's Mormon problem has been obvious for two years, though just two months ago he was still in denial, claiming only journalists asked him about his religion." More: "As he awaited the speech this week without knowing what Romney will say, one adviser hoped that the candidate would come across as a man of faith and integrity. That adviser is hoping to reverse Romney's performance in last week's dismal Republican presidential debate at St. Petersburg, Fla. Romney no longer is called the perfect candidate hampered solely by religious prejudice. After a half-hour immigrant-bashing duel with Rudy Giuliani, he looked like somebody who would say anything to be nominated. At College Station today, Romney will try to correct that impression, even if he does not win over bigots."

The Salt Lake Tribune headlines "Romney speech an LDS watershed." From the article: "Romney's speech is a seminal episode in the history of this American-born faith, unseen since 1904 when Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah was not allowed to take his seat until Congress vetted Mormon beliefs and practices. Never before has there been a viable Mormon candidate so politically well-prepared to go before the American people and make a claim on the presidency."

The Boston Globe looks at logistical differences between Romney and Kennedy's speeches: "[Romney] will be speaking to a handpicked audience of supporters and others, not a ballroom full of skeptical Protestant ministers as Kennedy did. And unlike Kennedy, Romney will not be taking questions."
 
More: "Romney's aides said the audience will include James Bopp Jr., a prominent antiabortion activist who is an adviser to Romney, and Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Land has been among those who have urged Romney to give a speech addressing suspicions about Mormonism head-on. Land, in a blog posting yesterday, said 'such a speech by Governor Romney is even more important for our nation than it is for Governor Romney. Why? Because our nation needs to be reminded in such a high profile speech that we are a country that believes so deeply in religious freedom that we enshrined the prohibition for any religious test for office in our Constitution.'"