Mitt Romney faces competition for Nevada’s Mormon vote
The outcome of tomorrow’s Republican caucus in Nevada is likely to be decided by a spectacular turnout from local Mormons, who make up around 7 percent of residents but (as I reported this morning) are expected to cast 30 percent of votes.
Received wisdom has it that nine out of ten of them will back Mitt Romney, a fellow member of the Church who was educated in neighbouring Utah. That, after all, is what happened back in 2008, when Romney won Nevada with 51 percent support.
But he faces at least some competition for the Mormon vote. The libertarian candidate Ron Paul (pictured), who came second in 2008, is actively courting the LDS community. He has two Facebook pages supporting those efforts: “Latter Day Saints for Ron Paul” and “Mormons for Ron Paul 2012.”
According to Connor Boyack, a Mormon and author of Latter Day Liberty, a book advocating libertarianism and Ron Paul through the framework of LDS values, Paul’s pitch to the Mormon community is partly based on his preoccupation with a literalist interpretation of the US constitution.
“Part of our faith implies support for the constitution. We believe it was a document inspired by God,” he tells me. “In fact, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, ran for President on an independent platform, out of frustration with the federal government failing to enforce the constitution. The parallels with Ron Paul are striking.”
Boyack adds that many Mormons are naturally drawn to Paul’s isolationist foreign policy. “Our scriptures are very anti-war. One passage lays out a set of policies to renounce war and proclaim peace. Ron Paul is the only one doing that.”
Today’s Las Vegas Review Journal has an interesting piece on Paul’s pitch to local Mormons (here), which is well worth a look.
One factor it ignores, but which will perhaps also play into proceedings, is Mitt Romney’s failure to publicly take ownership of his Mormonism on the campaign trail so far. Though it provides him with an advantage in Western states, where a disproportionate number of LDS members live, the faith is a barrier to success among Christian evangelicals, who regard it as a cult. It can also be a turn-off for independent voters wary of its eccentric theology and customs (including the now-defunct tradition of polygamy). Like all Mormons, Romney wears divine underwear, for example, and as a former bishop in the church has taken part in the controversial practice of “baptising” dead members of other faiths, including his own athiest father-in-law.
“The strange thing,” says Boyack, “is that the Mormon guy doesn’t want to reach out to his own people, but Ron Paul, the Baptist guy, does.”Tagged in: Religion
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