One of the key issues facing GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney in the primary is whether evangelical Republican grassroots voters will be willing to cast a vote for a Mormon:

Here’s the problem with electing a Mormon president, as Jason Thurman sees it: “I don’t believe he would be guided by God.”

Thurman, 26, is tidying the annotated Bibles in the Shepherd’s Fold bookstore. Over by the rack of Christian CDs, his co-worker Marty Thomas raises a similar concern.

“When it comes right down to it,” says Thomas, 40, “a Mormon’s strength is human. A Christian person’s strength is superhuman. I want [a president] who has that extra on his side.”

In an attempt to counter this problem, Romney met with various right-wing leaders last year in an attempt to ease their concerns about his religion:

Romney, who is ramping up preparations for a 2008 campaign, huddled privately at his Belmont home last Thursday with about a dozen evangelicals, including conservative activist Gary Bauer, president of the group American Values, and Richard Land, a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention.

The meetings have touched on several themes, participants say, but two topics being discussed are Romney’s religious beliefs and how he should address his faith as the campaign progresses.

At last week’s meeting at Romney’s home, Land said, he told the governor that voters want “a commander in chief, not a theologian in chief.”

Romney has continued to emphasize the idea that the President is “commander in chief, not a theologian in chief” and it has obviously paid off to the extent that last week he announced the backing of several high-profile right-wing leaders such as James Bopp, Jay Sekulow, and Lou Sheldon who have quickly begun parroting  this talking point:

Sheldon says Romney has “an across the board appeal” to evangelical conservatives, business, and the average American worker. “He’s not running for the head of any ministeriam or denomination or the pope — he’s running for a secular office that is called for secular issues,” explains Sheldon. “And he has, I think, the moral and ethical basis to be a strong conservative in that office.”

So Romney’s Mormon faith shouldn’t be a problem for evangelical voters, or any other voter for that matter, because he’s running for a secular position.  Of course, these right-wing leaders only seem to feel comfortable saying this after they’d had a chance to personally grill Romney about his faith:    

“He reads the Bible regularly. He has said — and I asked him — that he has received Jesus Christ as his personal Savior,” [Sheldon] declares. “He believes that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, only Son of God divine, and was crucified, buried and raised from the dead for our behalf. So, I think as he addresses those issues, that’s certainly going to ignite good feeling [among Christians].”

Or as CBN’s David Brody reported:

Reverend Lou Sheldon, Chairman of Traditional Values Coalition and one of the members of Mitt Romney’s Faith and Values Steering Committee, told The Brody File that he asked Mitt Romney point blank whether he would put his hand on the Bible or the Book of Mormon if he is ever sworn in as President of the United States.

His answer? The Bible.

Sheldon told me he spent nearly five hours with Mitt and Anne Romney and came away very impressed.

After all that time grilling Romney about his religious beliefs, it seems a little odd for Sheldon to turn around and dismiss others’ concerns about the candidate’s faith as irrelevant, especially since Sheldon described the presidency as a “secular office” only after having intensely questioned Romney about the tenets of his faith and determining that they meet Sheldon’s approval.