Lately it seems all the leading presidential candidates are discussing their religious and moral beliefs -- even when they'd rather not.
Indeed, seven years after George W. Bush won the presidency in part with a direct appeal to conservative religious voters -- even saying during a debate that Jesus Christ was his favorite philosopher -- the personal faith of candidates has become a very public part of the presidential campaign.
Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have hired strategists to focus on reaching religious voters. Obama's campaign holds a weekly conference call with key supporters in early primary and caucus states whose role is to spread the candidate's message to religious leaders and opinionmakers and report their concerns to the campaign.
Democrats in general are targeting moderate Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants and even evangelicals, hoping to enlist enough voters for whom religious and moral issues are a priority to put together a winning coalition.
Next week, Clinton, Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are scheduled to address liberal evangelicals at a forum on "faith, values and poverty."
Some top-tier Republican candidates, the natural heirs to conservative religious support, are finding the issue awkward to handle.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been questioned so much about his Mormon faith -- 46 percent of those polled by Gallup in March had a negative opinion of the religion -- that he has taken to emphasizing that he is running for a secular office.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Catholic who says he gave serious consideration as a young man to becoming a priest, is fending off critics who say he should be denied the sacrament of communion because he supports abortion rights.
Religion has become such a common element of presidential politics that during the first televised debate among the 2008 Republican candidates, a reporter asked if any did not believe in evolution -- three Republicans raised their hands: Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo.
"To many Americans, religion is a very important part of their life and they are interested in how religiosity influences candidates," said John Green, a University of Akron political science professor and senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.