The Mormon Church has stepped up an advertising campaign aimed at overcoming their poor image among many Americans. The ads, which stress that Mormons are regular people, are airing in 21 media markets—but not in the key primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Church officials say the ads have nothing to do with the candidacies of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman but are an effort to overcome widespread negative perceptions of Mormons and the belief that Mormons are not Christians. And the New York Times notes that the church's "political neutrality policy" bars it from endorsing or even promoting a candidate.
But Insiders say the campaign is, in a way, tied to Romney, calling it an attempt to avoid having Romney's candidacy influence people's perception of the church. "The people who are very savvy within the church and understand media know that if Romney gets the nomination, ultimately for the church it’s a problem," a person involved with the ad campaign tells the New York Times. "Politicians are polarizing figures, they’re not uniting figures. What it does is completely eliminate the option of Mormonism among a whole swath of people who will never ever consider it. They’ll say, I know one Mormon—our president—and I hate that guy." A recent poll found that only 42% of voters are currently aware of Romney's religion. (Read more Mitt Romney 2012 stories.)