Mitt Romney’s Mormon advantage

at 06:30 AM ET, 02/03/2012

Mitt Romney’s opponents really never had much of a chance in Nevada.

And it’s largely because of Romney’s Mormon religion.

While Romney’s faith has rightly been described as a liability in previous states — most notably Iowa and South Carolina, where evangelical Christians have balked at supporting Romney — it’s hard to call it anything but a trump card in Nevada (so to speak).

And, in fact, it made it virtually impossible for anybody to beat Romney.

A look at Romney’s performance in the state in 2008 tells the story.

In the 2008 Nevada caucuses, Romney won the state going away, 51 percent to 14 percent over second-place Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). And the biggest reason for Romney’s big margin was Mormons.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and his wife Ann, center, hug former Nevada first lady Dema Guinn, after a news conference with Donald Trump on Thursday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Despite comprising about 7 percent of the state’s population, they made up more than one-quarter of the GOP caucus electorate, and entrance polls showed Romney winning a stunning 95 percent of their vote.

In other words, half of Romney’s vote in Nevada came from fellow Mormons, and he could have won the state’s caucuses even if he hadn’t gotten a single vote from anyone else.

Because Mormons vote in unison and because they turn out in large numbers, a state like Nevada is virtually impossible for any of Romney’s opponents to win.

Romney’s basement in the state is essentially 25 percent of the vote because of the Mormon vote, and given his connection to neighboring Utah — where he ran the 2002 Olympics — it’s not surprising that he would expand on that and do well among non-Mormons as well.

And with the field remaining crowded, it’s tough for anybody to match him.

Poll so far shows what we’ve long suspected: That Romney will likely win Nevada by a large margin. The Las Vegas Review Journal and UNLV on Thursday released a poll showing Romney leading Newt Gingrich 45 percent to 25 percent.

And in fact, it may also help him later this month.

Arizona, whose primary is the next major contest after Nevada’s caucuses (following some less-prominent caucus states next week), has a similar-sized Mormon population.

In the 2008 Arizona primary, Mormons comprised 11 percent of the electorate (less than Nevada because a primary draws more casual voters than caucuses) and gave Romney 88 percent of the vote, according to exit polls.

It wasn’t enough to hand Romney the win, but he had a respectable showing against home-state Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). And this year, knowing he goes into another key February contest with basically 10 percent of the vote locked up is a nice luxury to have.

So in the end, the very thing that arguably cost Romney 10-plus percent of the vote in Iowa and South Carolina is likely to help him win about that much in two of the most important contests in February.

Gallup finds GOP closing red state/blue state gap: Republicans are now near even with Democrats in terms of states that lean towards each party, according to Gallup.

Gallup tracks party affiliation in all 50 states and finds that, in 2011, 10 states were solidly Republicans and 12 were solidly Democratic. Another seven lean towards each party, and 15 are listed as “competitive.”

The GOP has made steady progress in recent years. Following the 2008 election, 30 states were listed as solidly Democratic, compared to just four for the GOP.

Fixbits:

Gingrich in 1980 urged Ronald Reagan to attend an NAACP convention.

Roseanne Barr is running for the Green Party’s presidential nomination.

A Kentucky legislature deadlocked over congressional redistricting appears to be making some headway.

Rick Santorum Tebows.

Must-reads:

Voter Turnout Numbers Point To GOP Enthusiasm Gap” — AP

An Election Between Unelectables” — Matthew Dowd, National Journal

Gears Grind as Gingrich Shifts to Nevada” — Trip Gabriel, New York Times

 
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