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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project