Both Obama, the nation’s first black president, and Romney, a Mormon, have found that their shared status as members of minority groups and political pioneers, in many ways, has also changed the rules of this presidential campaign cycle, said Nancy Wadsworth, co-editor of the anthology “Faith and Race in American Political Life.”

“It’s the elephant in the room,” Wadsworth said. “On the Democratic side, the liability of raising (Romney’s) Mormonism and putting it under closer scrutiny means they will be accused of religious intolerance. If (Republicans) bring up Jeremiah Wright, they’ll be accused of using the race card.”

So both presidential campaigns are adhering to a tenuous, unwritten hands-off agreement when it comes to race and religion even as they themselves struggle to navigate those waters. But the same rules may not neccesarily apply to their supporters, third-party groups and well-heeled super PACs.