Mitt Romney’s Mormonism didn’t seem to do him any favors in Iowa and South Carolina, where some evangelical voters expressed discomfort with the former Massachusetts governor’s faith.
But in Nevada, Romney’s religion is a serious asset. For proof, look to the 2008 Nevada Republican caucuses, which Romney won handily with 51 percent of the vote. (Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the runner-up, garnered less than a third of Romney’s take.) Twenty-six percent of participants in that contest were Mormon, and 95 percent caucused for Romney.
According to Gallup, just 5.6 percent of the population of Nevada is Mormon. But Mormons are (1) overwhelmingly Republican and (2) far more likely than other Nevadans to show up at the caucuses. Less than 45,000 people participated in Nevada’s GOP caucuses in 2008, which made it relatively easy for the state’s relatively small Mormon population to have a big impact. (The state currently has more than 468,000 registered Republicans, but most won’t be making it to one of the state’s roughly 125 caucus locations this evening.)
The Mormon vote isn’t Romney’s only advantage in Nevada. He’s been endorsed by the state’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, as well as Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei; he also has momentum in the wake of his January 31 Florida primary victory, as well as an advantage in organization, financial resources and establishment support over his rivals.