In 2008, I remember hearing about it from one prominent D.C. pollster: The question (or set of questions) asked of voters was something like this: "Given the following choices, who would you be least likely to vote for -- an African American, a Jew, or a Mormon?" The answer was clear: a Mormon.
I couldn't help but wonder why this was the answer. If someone were asked a question like this, what would they be most comfortable saying out loud? Also, what I find so disconcerting is the vast discrepancy between the Mormons I know and the occasionally absurd news stories or a recently canceled HBO television show (Big Love): it is no wonder there appears to be at least some level of consternation about Mormons at-large. After all, media impression has strong power in this nation.
The truth is, however, America may in fact have another JFK moment in 2012. In 1960, JFK famously didn't run for president as a Catholic, but "as the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happen[ed] also to be a Catholic." [Recall Hillary Clinton, who didn't run because she was a woman, but ran despite being a woman. Of course, there was Barack Obama too, who barely mentioned race at all during his campaign until a pivotal speech in Pennsylvania in March of 2008.]
In the end, however, Hillary is a woman and nearly shattered a glass ceiling by winning more votes than any other woman in primary history. Obama paved the way for future African Americans and broke an unbelievable barrier by becoming the first African American president. And JFK was the first candidate to tear down the religion wall. (Before him, only Protestants had been elected president.)
And keeping religion in mind, my thought as of now is that the Republican candidate in 2012 will be a Mormon. And this candidate will clearly run despite being a Mormon, but will nonetheless still try to make appeals to the religious conservative Christian Republican base.
As a nation, we have looked past race; we came so close to shattering the gender gap (and I hope more than anything that we break it the upcoming years); we also need to continue to look past religion in choosing who we elect.
Read between the lines here, however. This is not a clear prediction or an endorsement for Mitt Romney. He seems like the frontrunner now. But I also see Jon Huntsman entering the fold and being "The Great Surprise of 2012." And let me be clear here too; this is not a prediction or endorsement for Huntsman. The major match-up of this primary, in my opinion, will be a match-up between Romney and Huntsman: two former governors, two Mormons, and two former business executives.
You know what's funny? For years I have been telling people to watch Jon Huntsman as the potential future leader of the Republican Party (long before David Plouffe issued what was seemingly a "warning call" about him).
The other day I went to a law library and found an old article written by a "Hillary Rodham" in the late 1970s. I also found notes on the Internet on how classmates throughout her studies used to talk about her likely political success. When I once did a research project on Bill Clinton, what I found was the same -- his closest childhood friends always knew he would be "move mountains." Some claim they always knew he would be president. For some people, you simply know leadership when you see it. Huntsman has rare talents and abilities that I have recognized for years. If he can win the primary (as he is moderate on some issues, which the conservatives may tear him apart on), then he is likely an incredibly viable candidate against Obama in the general.
But I am a blogger and a moderate Democrat and I issue no endorsements here and no predictions even for one candidate. Just a simple title: "The Mormon Candidates of 2012" -- of which I hope neither of the two aforementioned candidates are actually defined as. So why did I pick this title for my piece? Because in the end, Shakespeare may have written, "love is blind," but despite all that I have written above, he never wrote that politics is.
To contact the author, please visit: www.DavidHelfenbein.com.
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