Mitt Romney will address head-on suspicions about his Mormon faith in a speech he plans to deliver on Thursday in Texas, not far from where John F. Kennedy delivered an address nearly 50 years ago that many credit with defusing concerns about his Catholic faith when he was running for president.
Romney plans to give the address, to be called "Faith in America," at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, 80 miles from Houston, the site of Kennedy's speech. His campaign is calling it an opportunity for him to "share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor's own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected."
Romney and his advisers have been divided about whether he should give such a speech, with the candidate himself saying recently that he liked the idea but that some of his aides had been trying to dissuade him. Romney decided about a week ago to give the speech, feeling that it was the right moment, his advisers said.
Suspicions about Romney's Mormon beliefs, which many conservative Christians consider to be heretical, have dogged his candidacy since it began, with many polls showing that large numbers of Americans would not vote for a Mormon candidate. The announcement comes a week after Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor whose rise in the polls in Iowa has been fueled by evangelical Christians, began running a TV advertisement that describes him as a "Christian leader," which some viewed as a jab at Romney.
DEAD HEATS IN IOWA
A poll released Sunday by the Des Moines Register shows both the Republican and Democratic races in dead heats in Iowa.
With a 4.4 percentage point margin of error, Huckabee had 29 percent to Romney's 24 percent and Rudy Giuliani's 13 percent in the GOP race. Among Democrats, Barack Obama got 28 percent, Hillary Rodham Clinton, 25 percent, and John Edwards, 23 percent. Other candidates were in single digits. More than half of likely caucus-goers in both races said they could change their minds.
CLINTON ZINGS OBAMA
With the Iowa Poll showing her losing ground, Clinton mounted a new, more aggressive attack against Obama on Sunday, raising direct questions about his character, challenging his integrity and forecasting a sharp debate over those subjects in the days ahead.
Clinton has hammered Obama recently over his health-care proposal, arguing that he is misleading voters because it omits millions of people and would not lower costs. But Sunday, in a dramatic shift, she made it clear that her goal is to challenge Obama not just on policy but also on one of his strongest selling points: his reputation for honesty.
"There's a big difference between our courage and our convictions, what we believe and what we're willing to fight for," Clinton said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She said voters in Iowa will have a choice "between someone who talks the talk, and somebody who's walked the walk."
Asked directly whether she intended to raise questions about Obama's character, she replied: "It's beginning to look a lot like that."
The Obama campaign quickly fought back, and the candidate himself called the new effort a sign of desperation as she slips in the Iowa polls.
"I think that folks from some of the other campaigns are reading the polls and starting to get stressed and issuing a whole range of outlandish accusations," Obama said.
Obama was endorsed on Sunday by Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie. ... Republican Ron Paul said on CNN that his upstart presidential campaign is on track to raise more than $12 million this quarter. Paul said he had raised roughly $10.4 million in the quarter beginning Oct. 1, double the $5.2 million he pulled in during the third quarter.