Is America ready for a Mormon president?

Is America ready for a Mormon president?
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to reporters after he campaigned at Cherokee Trike and More in Greer, S.C., Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

While the religion of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hasn't been much of a factor thus far in the Republican nomination for president, their Mormon beliefs face a different test with next week's primary in South Carolina.

"It's going to be debated either publicly or privately in South Carolina in ways that it simply wasn't in Iowa and New Hampshire, so if there's going to be a place in America where this issue is going to cut politically, it's going to be South Carolina," said Major Garrett, congressional correspondent for National Journal, a CBS News partner.

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A recent poll from the Pew Research Center said 56 percent of Mormons think Americans are ready to send a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the White House. However, 32 percent of respondents said they didn't think America was ready, and 12 percent said they didn't know. The Rev. Edward Beck, a Catholic priest, said a candidate's specific religion doesn't matter much to Americans.

"Faith and values matter to people," said Beck. "How you get there, I don't think, for most people it matters. It matters to some evangelical Christians, though. If you say that the Bible is not primacy for you and you have this Book of Mormon in there, well, they're suspect of that, evangelical Christians, because the Bible is everything for them."

But a win for Romney in the Palmetto State would be a big coup for his campaign.

"If he wins in South Carolina, I guarantee you the Romney campaign is going to say, 'We have dealt with this issue in a way that really doesn't need to be brought up any more,'" said Garrett. "That may not be true, but that's what they're going to say."

Above, watch the panel discuss Huntsman, Romney and how former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's Christianity affects his candidacy.