Via Mark Halperin (more here), Mitt Romney will make his "religion speech" Thursday in Texas, after apparently much internal deliberation.
Romney is hoping voters see it much like JFK's 1960 speech, also given in Texas, about Catholicism. Paraphrased, that means, "I know you haven't elected someone of my faith before, but I'm not a religious nutjob even if what you may have heard about Mormonism sounds that way. Nothing to worry about here."
It's now, and will be, almost impossible to figure how big an issue Mormonism will be in the election since even if it is, voters aren't likely to say so. I don't think it's his big problem, though. It's that voters don't know what they'd really be getting with a Romney-marked ballot. He's not the personality type that can sell a life-changing transformation to a mass audience, as impressed as they may be with him in person. He looks too much like he's executing a marketing plan.
It seems hard to imagine the decision to give the speech wasn't heavily influenced by Mike Huckabee's dramatic rise in Iowa, especially since his support has come from giant chunks of the evangelical Christians Romney needs to beat Rudy Giuliani.
Romney has been telegraphing his strategy the last few days. He's making the explicit case that if GOP religious voters want to stop Giuliani, they would be wasting their vote on Huckabee. I don't buy the idea that Huckabee doesn't have a chance at the nomination, but the caucuses, and Romney's campaign, may come down to whether Iowans do.