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February 02, 2012 10:09 AM LDS Power in Nevada

By Ed Kilgore

Speaking of casinos and campaigning, we are on the brink of Nevada’s caucuses, being held on February 4 after ricocheting around the calendar last year in the usual game of musical chairs among “early” states. And from the very beginning of the “invisible primary” last year, Nevada has been generally conceded to Mitt Romney, no matter how he has been doing elsewhere or nationally.

A new poll conducted by UNLV for local Las Vegas media explains why. Although they represent only 7% of Nevada’s population, LDS members are expected to make up one-fourth of caucus-goers, with 86% saying they will vote for their co-religionist. That’s almost exactly what happened in 2008, when 26% of caucus-goers were Mormons, and 95% voted for Mitt. With that sort of hard-core base, it’s no surprise Romney leads the current poll with 45% of likely caucus-goers, with Newt Gingrich at 25%, Rick Santorum at 11%, and Ron Paul at 9%.

Gingrich has little chance of winning Nevada, but is getting some circus-like buzz in the state thanks to his impending endorsement from the freakishly omnipresent Donald Trump, which presumably pulls a few Birther votes, and his close (one might say feudal) relationship with another casino owner, Sheldon Adelson, who will have the opportunity to vote for Newt on Saturday at a special separate evening caucus for Orthodox Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists held in a center named for his family (though he denies any involvement with setting it up, since he’s not Orthodox).

For all the talk of Romney’s religion hurting him because of a “backlash” from evangelicals, there’s no question he benefits from a “frontlash” of LDS voters expressing solidarity with him, just as Catholic voters did for JFK in 1960 when he sought to become that group’s first president. They matter a lot in NV, and will also matter on February 28 in Arizona (6% LDS), and in later caucuses in Idaho (27% LDS) and Wyoming (11% LDS), right down to heavily-Mormon Utah, which ends the whole nominating process on June 26.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • jcricket on February 02, 2012 10:31 AM:

    Yeah, old Mitt has the Mormon vote locked up.

    In other news, did everyone hear the news that last night Washington State Senate voted in FAVOR of gay marriage, and now the bill is headed to the House where it is guaranteed passage. Governor Chris Gregoire said she'd sign it.

    w00t!

    The bill got bipartisan support with 4 republicans. Amazing.

  • SYSPROG on February 02, 2012 10:41 AM:

    The Mormon Church has been a huge part of the Republican base forever. The big money that the Mormons control has always been pushing the Republican agenda but have never been able to overcome the stigma of Church teachings to be on the National stage. Of COURSE, they will support Mitt...right wrong or indifferent. And the Media will be 'forced' to cover it.But it will be as a side note to Newt's antics or latest stupid thing.

  • berttheclock on February 02, 2012 10:51 AM:

    LDS has had a great deal of power in Nevada for years. Vegas was a Mormom outpost. In the days the mob owned the casinos, it was middle management which was highly Mormon that ran the operations of the casinos. That percentage may seem low, but, Mormons are very well connected to Nevada politics.

    However, on the Washington State front, yes, kudos to those who in the Senate who voted for this needed measure. Three Blue Dog Demos, including Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, voted against it. But, as to one of the four Republicans who voted Yea, what will happen to State Senator Steve Litzow of Mercer Island? Will Michael Medved vote him off the island?

  • Peter C on February 02, 2012 10:54 AM:

    Yep, the Mormons are pushing the evangelicals aside in the struggle to control the Republican Party. This is their opportunity to seize control and there is nothing that the evangelicals can do to stop them. Heck, there was never even much of a viable evangelican candidate, but the Mormons are going to come out of the woodwork and they have the backing of the super-wealthy Mormon church and a bunch of the super-rich on Wall Street. That will trump any lame efforts by the religious nut-cases. With Romney as the Republican standard-bearer, the religious right can kiss their real influence goodbye.
    /snark off.

  • John Dillinger on February 02, 2012 10:58 AM:

    I think the Obama campaign should get up on the air in NV now, and have voters compare the President's plan for refinancing underwater mortgates with Romney's take on the issues, which is to have the values hit bottom, so that "investors" can buy them up. Not couples who are looking for a place to live while they work and raise a family, but "investors."

  • Bob M on February 02, 2012 10:59 AM:

    "just as Catholic voters did for JFK in 1960 when he sought to become that groupís first president"

    Surely it is more polite to say "that religion's first president"?

  • DAY on February 02, 2012 10:59 AM:

    This geezer remembers the "tunnel to Rome" whispers when JFK ran.
    It can be expected that the same sort of rumors will expose the LDS history in politics. With greater effect, since they are mostly true. . .

  • Josef K on February 02, 2012 11:07 AM:

    Is it just me or is this election cycle bringing out more factions into the limelight than last year?

  • MuddyLee on February 02, 2012 11:27 AM:

    I don't trust any group that forbids BOTH alcohol and caffeine - and Mitt has been a pretty high ranking Mormon church official. Check out Ezra Klein's wonkbook column today - Mitt's tax reform plan is just Bush to the max.

  • SadOldVet on February 02, 2012 11:30 AM:

    Damn, thought we were on to something good when I read the title of this blog!

    Then I realized it said LDS and not LSD!

  • kth on February 02, 2012 11:53 AM:

    SadOldVet, when I watched some of the Republican debates, I suspected someone had slipped me the brown (bad) acid.

    I'm thinking this Mormon aspirational thing stands to loom larger in Arizona: how much does it stack up against teabagger mistrust of Romney (in the primary, not that it isn't over for all intents and purposes, maybe also diminished enthusiasm in the general), and in the fall against Hispanics enraged at Arizona's ethnic profiling?

  • Ron Byers on February 02, 2012 12:17 PM:

    If you know anything about the history of the West you realize that Utah wasn't the only state that the Mormons heavily influenced. They settled Las Vegas and have always been important in Nevada. Remember Harry Reid is a Mormon. In Nevada that connection has helped him a lot.

  • TCinLA on February 02, 2012 12:58 PM:

    That "frontlash" of Mormons is exactly what we non-Mormons out west who have lived around these people worry about. You should go over to Salon and read the article about Romney and the "White House Prophecy." He has been the Mormon Church's "chosen one" for a very long time. And since that church is a theocracy in a way the Catholic Church hasn't been in 500 years (if then), it is very much the case that if you elect a Mormon President, you are "electing" the Mormon "Prophet" to be in charge of American policy. This is why Romney is the threat he is, that this cult could take state power. The whole thing about whether or not they are "Christian" is irrelevant, the fact that they demand total obedience from their members on pain of excommunication is the problem. Romney cannot make the promise Kennedy made, and mean it; if he said it and meant it, he would not be a "good Mormon" and he would be excommunicated for it. So when he says all that he has about that cult, he's lying like he lies about everything else.

    Go read the Salon article.

  • Deja vu All Over Again on February 02, 2012 1:03 PM:

    Please don't take this the wrong way....

    Mitt isn't the first candidate for the Presidency of the United States out of the LDS religion. But like the first candidate, he inspires strong feelings, faces accusations of unethical behavior and receives monolithic support from LDS voting blcs in key states where such support can swinfg the election.

    In 1844, Joseph Smith (the founder of the LDS church) was mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois,and leader of the local militia. He declared himself a candidate for the Presidency. A local newspaper printed stories (the Expositor) about him that accused him of polygamy (then a close held secret, but later an openly acknowledged fact). In response, Joseph Smith declared the paper to be a public nuisance and a mob incited by his words destroyed the printing press (the paper only had one issue!). Smith was charged and jailed for his role in inciting the riot. While he was awaiting trial a different vigilante mob "broke into" the jail and shot him dead ( some say in the back, but that's) irrelevant. These events led directly to the decision of the LDS church members to head out to Utah, mamy of them on foot and pushing handcarts with their belongings. Many LDS pioneers died en route and those who survived were ill equipped for the task of settling Utah.

    Let's review: Martial law, Suppression of the press (Even if it was a national enquirer style tabloid printing biased,hearsay and gossip it didn't deserve to be destroyed. For a paper bringing to lght facts about the behavior of the candidate that potential voters might wish to consider this is indefensible in my eyes.), Inciting to riot, blurring the line between religion and politics, a defacto military junta within Illinois, accusations of attempting to fix elections.....

    Lets just hope the comparisons stop with Mitt receiving monolithic support from his co-religionists...

  • berttheclock on February 02, 2012 1:05 PM:

    So, perish the thought, but, should Mitt be elected, will the USofA be changed to the Unites States of Deseret? Just one big bee hive.

  • berttheclock on February 02, 2012 1:14 PM:

    The name Utah, for the Unitas band, was forced upon the Mormons in order for the state to become part of the Union. Look at the early maps of their preferred name Deseret and you will see an area stretching from what is now Utah to San Diego, to the northwest to what is now Oregon and much of Idaho. Vegas was on an old Piute trail from Salt Lake City to Southwestern California. Today, the word Deseret is used for their thrift stores which employs their handicapped workers and, of course, the local St Lake City newspaper. The "ret" rhymes with wet.

  • schtick on February 02, 2012 1:55 PM:

    Now we know that LDS isn't a religion that promotes any kind of truth, but maybe they will bring back having more than one wife? Wouldn't that make Gingrich happy? Oh wait, they can't share wives, can they?
    And I was thinking, LDS may need LSD in their koolaid.

  • Cha on February 02, 2012 2:55 PM:

    Caffiene and alcohol are forbidden but evidently pathological liars are quite okay with them. I call bullshit.

  • SirLurksAlot on February 03, 2012 3:21 AM:

    Nobody parties like fallen mormons.

    Frontlash....ha

  • CDW on February 03, 2012 12:24 PM:

    AZ has a lot of Mormons, too, especially in Sheriff Arpaio's area. (Could there be a correlation there?) Idaho has large Mormon enclaves as well.