THE NOTE: Mitt's Mormon Gamble

Six questions we trust will be answered this week:

1. Is Mormonism a religion or a cult?

2. What does that make Oprah-ism?

3. If this is the "fun part,"what part of the 30-point leads wasn't fun for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton?

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4. Which endorsement matters more: that of a crusty Republican publisher in New Hampshire, or that of a freshman Democratic House member in Iowa?

5. Will former governor Mike Huckabee's dimples still be showing when he gets a full week of media scrutiny? (And is that why Jesus never ran for office?)

6. Which former Iowa front-runner's change in tactics -- Mitt Romney or Hillary Clinton -- will make a difference in the final month before the caucuses?

Moving in the wrong direction in Iowa polls, both Romney and Clinton "rolled out new campaign tactics Sunday in an aggressive push to regain lost momentum," Peter Nicholas and Peter Wallsten write in the Los Angeles Times.

"Both Romney and Clinton would be shaken by a loss in this crucial state. Clinton has cast herself as the inevitable nominee, and a defeat here would shatter perceptions that she can't be stopped. Romney has spent heavily on campaign ads in Iowa."

Poor Romney (certainly not literally). So he does what the PowerPoint presentations told him to do -- he combs his (ample) hair, shows off that loving (and lovely) family, signs the checks, attacks Rudy Giuliani -- and what does he get for the $7 million-plus he's dropped in Iowa? A nice, unobstructed view of Mike Huckabee's (much diminished) backside.

How does he respond? By playing the card he's been holding onto all these months. He's calling The Speech -- scheduled for Thursday morning in College Station, Texas -- "Faith in America," but it may as well be called "Have Faith in Mitt," or maybe just "Mormonism Isn't Weird."

Romney's religion remains foreign (even enough to be a deal-breaker) to a large slice of the Republican electorate, which is what makes this speech an option, if not a necessity. He will command the national press attention on Thursday and in the days leading up to the speech -- one benefit of four days' advance notice.

It will be "the most anticipated speech of his presidential campaign," and the stakes will be huge for the former governor, ABC's John Berman reports.

Aides acknowledge that the "risk is that we focus on the Mormon faith, as opposed to focusing on a candidate who's faith is an important part of who he is." Says a Romney aide: "We will all remember this."

And it's not going to be an easy speech for Romney to deliver. "If he says something about Mormonism as his actual religion, it's not going to please evangelicals too much," Boston College's Alan Wolfe tells Michael Levenson of The Boston Globe.

"But if he gives the kind of Jesus-is-my-personal-savior speech, evangelicals won't buy it and he's going to alienate his own Mormon friends."

"If Romney wants to grab those crucial Evangelical votes in Iowa and elsewhere, he will earn their respect and come across as honest and authentic if he acknowledges the differences between the two religions," writes the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody.

"Evangelicals would trust him more, appreciate him more and respect him more if he came clean about the differences."

This is a defensive move, not an offensive one, which makes for the most uncomfortable of settings as Romney, R-Mass., seeks to explain his faith to the voters of Iowa and beyond.

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