“Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

The man who asks this question is Mike Huckabee, according to a New York Times magazine cover story written by Zev Chafetz.

The Huckabee campaign says the quote should be read in context.

So here's the context.

On the road to Pella, Huckabee talked about the enthusiasm he now encounters everywhere he goes. For example, he said, his driver in California not only declined payment but also wrote the governor a $50 personal check right on the spot. It was, I thought, a dangerous anecdote to tell within earshot of a professional driver traveling along an icy highway at high speed, but Huckabee was feeling invulnerable, and the driver, I later realized, was already on the governor’s team. Huckabee normally starts his mornings by running 6 to 10 miles and reading a chapter from the Book of Proverbs. Today he was too pressed to do either, but he planned to catch up later. Anyway, he knew much of the day’s assignment, Chapter 3, by heart. ‘‘Trust in the Lord,’’ he quoted, ‘‘and lean not upon thine own understanding.’’ Not a bad motto for a campaign that is still too broke to do any independent polling.

Chapter 3 also contains the admonition to ‘‘keep sound wisdom and discretion.’’ Huckabee is, indeed, a discreet fellow, but he has no trouble making his feelings known. He mentioned how much he respected his fellow candidates John McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani. The name of his principal rival in Iowa, Mitt Romney, went unmentioned. Romney, a Mormon, had promised that he would be addressing the subject of his religion a few days later. I asked Huckabee, who describes himself as the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. ‘‘I think it’s a religion,’’ he said. ‘‘I really don’t know much about it.’’

I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: ‘‘Don’t Mormons,’’ he asked in an innocent voice, ‘‘believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?’’

In this unpredictable primary season, Mike Huckabee’s surge in Iowa — and beyond — is perhaps the greatest surprise. Iowa was supposed to be a pushover for Mitt Romney. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, began working the state more than a year ago. He commands an army of trained professionals and a vast ad budget. Mitt Romney’s message flows like Muzak out of every radio and TV in the state. All this effort has reportedly cost Romney more than $7 million. Huckabee, by contrast, has spent less than $400,000 in Iowa. His paid staff in the state is not much bigger than a softball team. Televised Huckabee ads have been harder to catch than ‘‘I Love Lucy’’ reruns.