Mormons sense victory for their man in Nevada

 

Reno

After bubbling away for months beneath the surface of Republican discourse, the potentially tricky issue of Mitt Romney's religious faith is poised to come into play for the first time this weekend as the focus of the primary season shifts to Nevada.

Mr Romney received a significant boost yesterday when he received the backing of billionaire businessman and former candidate Donald Trump, scotching rumours he was to endorse Mr Romney's rival Newt Gingrich.

Saturday's caucuses present an opportunity for Mr Romney to further solidify front-runner status, thanks to the enthusiastic support of the state's Mormon community, who are likely to turn out in huge numbers to endorse a fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

In 2008, Mr Romney confounded pollsters who expected him to finish fourth in Nevada by claiming a stunning victory with 51 per cent of the vote. It later emerged that Mormons, who make up around 7 per cent of the state's residents, had accounted for 26 per cent of caucus-goers. More than 90 per cent backed him.

This time, analysts expect the trend to be even more marked. "The community will turn out in huge numbers, and I say that as a member myself," said Mark Peplowski, a professor of political science at the College of Southern Nevada. "This is their big chance. They can smell it, they can feel it. I anticipate the [Mormon] turnout will account for more than 30 per cent of those voting on Saturday."

The depth of support was evident at Mr Romney's opening Nevada rally, at the Brady Linen Company in Las Vegas, where the crowd was filled with big Mormon families. Many sported attire from Brigham Young University, the Church's college in neighbouring Utah where Mr Romney studied.

A big win tomorrow will not push Mr Romney over the top; mathematically the race for the Republican nomination could drag on for months. But after Tuesday's victory in Florida, he has growing momentum.

Mr Romney's faith is a double-edged sword. Mormons may represent a powerful demographic in Nevada, along with neighbouring Arizona and Utah, but they are treated with suspicion by evangelicals who dominate Republican politics elsewhere. Many conservative Christians regard the religion as a cult, and research suggests 30 per cent of Americans see it as a barrier to the presidency.

The Church's conservative position on social issues can also galvanise liberals. At a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, Mr Romney became the latest candidate to be "glitter-bombed" by gay rights activists.

Perhaps understandably, Mr Romney has steered clear of addressing his Mormonism. "He's taking a page from the playbook of John Kennedy, the first Catholic candidate for president," said Professor Peplowski. "Kennedy said, 'I am not the Catholic candidate for President, I'm the Democratic candidate who happens to be a Catholic.' Romney wants to be seen as the businessman, he's the conservative Republican, who just happens to also be a Mormon."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy