THE NOTE: The Speech

Until or unless Hillary Clinton decides to give her Monica speech, this will be The Speech -- the kind of nationally covered, doubly capitalized, all-eyes-on-one-candidate address that's almost always reserved for presidents and major-party nominees.

And the pre-speech buildup means we know some of what we can expect from this giant national teachable moment even before former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., takes the stage in College Station, Texas, at 10:30 am ET Thursday (after being introduced by former President George H. W. Bush -- try unpacking that symbolism).

1. This will be called Mitt's "Mormon speech" even if it barely touches on his Mormon faith (and will be criticized for that fact).


2. This will be called Mitt's "JFK speech" even though it won't match (and won't try to match) Kennedy's eloquence (and will be criticized for that fact, too).

3. No voters who have decided they won't vote for a Mormon will change their minds Thursday morning.

4. By waiting until this moment to deliver this address, The Speech will be cast as a defensive maneuver (hello, Mike Huckabee).

5. Since The Speech will anger many someones -- evangelicals, fellow Mormons, atheists, Catholics, Jews, maybe all of the above -- the single biggest thing Romney can accomplish is to appear as if he's speaking from the heart.

It won't answer all the questions facing Romney -- and, per excerpts provided by his campaign, he will not dive into the elements that set his religion apart, saying that doing so would "enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution."

But it's a fascinating address, with a celebration of "our nation's symphony of faith," and the "common creed of moral convictions." And this quote that's destined to be whittled into the most sound bites (listen for echoes, at least, of JFK):

"When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."

He includes a call to arms for voters of all faiths: "In recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning.

They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

And this sure applause line: "Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion -- rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

Watch Romney's speech live at 10:30 am ET by clicking here.

On first glance, the speech appears to meet the expectations set by Newsweek's Jon Meacham, whose book Romney had been reading in preparing for Thursday's speech.

"He should say clearly in his speech that he will not allow his church to dictate to him on public matters," Meacham writes. "Beyond that, he should talk about how religion has shaped us without strangling us, and that the Founders envisioned a nation in which religion would be one factor among many in the life of the country."

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