During the 2008 Democratic Presidential campaign much was made about how important African American voters were for Barack Obama. Members of the African American community were excited about one of the own possibly becoming president, and they turned out in large numbers to vote overwhelming for Obama. A win for Obama was seen by many as a sign of acceptance for a long marginalized group.
Although a similar phenomenon occurred for Catholics and John Kennedy in 1960, less attention has been paid this year to how the same dynamic with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been strongly helping Mitt Romney.
Many Mormons view themselves as an historically marginalized group that has struggled to be accepted by their country. Their first leader was killed by an angry mob while in government custody, and early on in the church’s history the United States government and the Mormons fought the short Utah War. Having one of their own elected to the highest office in the land would be a sign of acceptance, so the prospect is generating an important enthusiasm in the community for Romney’s candidacy.
Like African Americans in 2008 for Obama, Mormons have turned out in big numbers and voted overwhelmingly for Romney. In Nevada according to the LDS Church News almanac their members make up just under 7% of the population, yet 25% percent of those who voted in the caucus were members of the LDS. According to entrance polling 88% of them voted for Romney. Romney would have won Nevada without this vote, but it would have been dramatically closer.
A similar pattern played out last night in Arizona. In that state Mormons make up just under 6% of the population but 14% of these who voted in the primary. In Arizona 93 percent of the LDS vote went to Romney. Romney would still have narrowly won the state without the LDS vote, but it is likely the Mormon factor is why other candidates didn’t even try to contest the state.
If this general turnout and voting pattern keeps up, it could probably help guarantee a Romney victory in every state where LDS makes up roughly 4 percent or more of the population. Besides Nevada and Arizona that includes Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Hawaii, Montana, Alaska, Washington and Oregon. That is a lot of states and a respectable number of delegates.
The Washington State Caucus this Saturday, March 3rd, should be an interesting test case of the power of the LDS factor for Romney. Mormons make up roughly 4% of the population, but if patterns hold they should make up well over 10% of those who participate, with almost all backing Romney. Last week a PPP poll found Rick Santorum leading in the state by 11 points, but since then the momentum has shifted to Romney.
While there has been talk about how Romney’s faith may be hurting him with some evangelical Christian voters, it can also be a boon to Romney in some states. His faith could help him dominate most of the mountain west states.