During Primary season, the Washington Post ran a blog piece claiming that "Mitt Romney’s opponents really never had much of a chance in Nevada. And it’s largely because of Romney’s Mormon religion." The post claimed that unlike primaries in evangelical-heavy South Carolina and Iowa, Nevada was a "trump card" for Romney: "Despite comprising about 7 percent of the state’s population, they [Mormons] made up more than one-quarter of the GOP caucus electorate, and entrance polls showed Romney winning a stunning 95 percent of their vote."
Fair enough. But there's a world of difference between a primary and a general election, and between Nevada and the rest of the country. And those differences won't help Romney at all come November.
This past week, the New Republic ran an interesting piece arguing that Romney's Mormonism will win him, at most, an extra 15,000 votes in Nevada, a swing state.
Although Mormonism is among the fastest growing religions in the country, it remains one of the smallest in the United States, making up just 1.7 percent of the population. At such a small size, their impact on the election would be negligible were they distributed evenly across the country. However, 76 percent of Mormons are concentrated in the West, allowing them to play an outsized role in several states....
Single demographic groups rarely swing elections on their own, and Mormons are no exception. Romney’s faith will probably boost Mormon turnout and support, but it is unlikely to prove decisive in any state. Mormons make up a larger share of the population in Nevada than any other battleground, but, even in the Silver State, there just are not enough Mormons to swing anything other than the tightest race.
And that is in a state where Mormons make up 6.5% of the population. If Romney's religion can't help him in Nevada, where could it?
Here's the bottom line. Much has been made of the fact that between 65 and 80 percent of Mormons vote Republican (depending on which poll you choose), and this is undoubtedly true. But how significant is that fact when the Mormon population remains heavily concentrated in two states (Utah and Idaho) that are going to vote Republican whether it's a Mormon candidate or not? In the swing state of Ohio where I live and vote, Mormons are only one-half of one percent of the population. That's hardly going to tip the scales, even if all of us Ohio Mormons vote Republican, which we won't, because I am still a Green Dog Democrat. (That is the name I have coined when you're more liberal than the blue dogs but not quite as liberal as the yellow ones.)
So: Can Mormon voters put Romney over the top? Nope. Mormonism is too small and too geographically concentrated to make much of a difference here.
In fact, the naysayers who claim that Romney's Mormonism will be a liability in the general election are closer to the truth. According to a Gallup poll released last week, "Eighteen percent of Americans say they would not vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate who happens to be a Mormon, virtually the same as the 17% who held this attitude in 1967." Democrats and less-educated Americans are the least likely to vote for a Mormon. Gallup is quick to point out that those 18% aren't destined to sink Romney's chances; in May 1960, it found that 21% of Americans claimed they would not vote for a Catholic candidate even if he was well-qualified, but JFK won the general election by a sliver anyway.
The best that Mitt Romney can hope for is that his Mormonism will be a neutral factor.
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