Mormons sense victory for their man in Nevada
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."
- 1 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway in dense fog
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway in dense fog
George Clooney and Amal fail to get special treatment at New York restaurant
Cindy Crawford 'un-PhotoShopped' viral Marie Claire image was doctored, photographer claims
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...
£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Cheshire's number 1 commercial ...
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a career in custome...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...