LAYTON -- A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can become president of the United States of America, says Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush.
"Absolutely," said Rove, who was in Layton on Thursday night for a stop-over to address a room full of fellow Republicans at the Davis Conference Center.
While he was at it, Rove, who served as the keynote speaker for the Davis County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner, autographed copies of his book.
More than 400 people attended the event at a cost of $50 per person, which included dinner and a copy of Rove's book, New York Times best-seller "Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight."
The event also included a VIP reception with Rove.
Following the reception and prior to his speech, Rove took time to talk with the media, addressing the strong gains the Republican Party made in the November 2010 election in the House, Senate and with governorships across the country, and the challenges that lie ahead for any GOP presidential candidate in 2012.
Rove also shared that he would be addressing the economy, the nation's debt, health care and hope for America in his dinner speech, which was closed to the media.
"I think we are going to have a race that is up in the air, that is capable of being won by either side," Rove said of the 2012 presidential run.
He said despite the slight advantage there is to a standing incumbent, "The economy is not going to be good, and the budget is not going to be in the place the American people want it, the deficits are still going to be too high, and the taste that is still in people's mouths about what they saw in the first two years, particularly when it comes to health care, is not going to be helpful to (President Barack Obama)."
But any Republican candidate entering the field -- including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., both members of the LDS faith -- will have their work cut out for them, said Rove.
"Anybody thinking about this is going to have challenges," Rove said.
Too much was made of Romney's LDS faith in his 2008 run for president, said Rove, who has Utah ties but is Anglican, not LDS.
The country enshrined freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights, Rove said, and what he found in looking back at articles centering around Mitt Romney's father, former Michigan governor George Romney, is that there was no mention of his LDS faith.
"This makes me queasy,"Rove said of the Times magazine coverage of Romney's religion.
Rove, who attended Olympus High School and the University of Utah, said that the whole issue of Romney's religion was "overdone."
Based on Rove's busy schedule, the Davis GOP was fortunate to have him speak at this annual event, Davis County Republican Party Chairwoman Shirley Bouwhuis said.
Rove, an adviser to President Bush from 2000 to 2007 and deputy chief of staff from 2004 to 2007, has written a candid, behind-the-scenes view of some of the country's most turbulent years in the White House, Bouwhuis said.
Bouwhuis said she was confident Rove would generate a lot of interest from local party members, especially as 2010 was a historical mid-term election for the GOP, and 2012 is shaping up to be an exciting election year, too.
Rove is a Fox News contributor and writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal as a Newsweek columnist.