The expected announcement by former Utah Governor John Hunstman that he’s entering the 2012 presidential race is certain to grab national headlines. Huntsman is a Republican, but since 2009, he’s also served as President Obama’s envoy to China. He supported the Obama stimulus package – a definite no-no for Tea Party types – but he’s staunchly pro-life, and like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, notably moderate on immigration and environmental issues. But unlike Huckabee, he’s also expressed strong support for gay civil unions.

But there’s one aspect of Huntsman’s biography that could stir even greater controversy: his ongoing affiliation with the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS), known to most as the Mormons. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, whom many still consider the Republican frontrunner – he’s still leading the prospective GOP field by a wide margin in the bellwether New Hampshire primary – is also a Mormon, and, in fact, a devout one. In 2008, he tried to defuse the issue and possible opposition from Christian evangelicals, who have a long history of animosity toward Mormons, by giving a major speech on religion and politics, citing an earlier presidential aspirant, John F Kennedy, who faced fears over his Catholicism, and largely defused them.

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