Pathetic. I hope he knocks it out of the park on Thursday night.

Key findings of the study include:

# Bias against Mormons is significantly more intense among the public compared to bias against women and blacks. The bias against Mormons is even more pronounced among conservative Evangelicals. Their bias against Mormons rivals their bias against atheists.

# Only about half the nation claims to even know a Mormon or to know that Romney is Mormon.

# The extent of the bias against Romney is moderated if the individual already knows that he is Mormon. That information seems to demystify the Mormon religion, making people more tolerant of the religion. Those who do not know Romney is Mormon exhibit much greater bias upon learning of his religion.

That last bullet point suggests a certain wisdom to giving the speech, but note well from elsewhere in the release: “[S]imple appeals for religious tolerance do not win over support for Romney from the respondents.” As feared.

In other news, he just launched a depth charge on a scandal that was creeping up silently behind him.

Update: Here’s that scandal in the making he just torpedoed.

Despite a Globe story in Dec. 2006 that highlighted Romney’s use of illegal immigrants to tend to his lawn, Romney continued to employ the same landscaping company – until today. The landscaping company, in turn, continued to employ illegal immigrants.

Two of the workers confirmed in separate interviews with Globe reporters last week that they were in the country without documents. One said he had paid $7,000 to a smuggler to escort him across the desert into Arizona; the other said he had come to the country with a student visa that was now expired. Both were seen on the lawn by either Globe reporters or photographers over the last two months.