Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gauging Mormon Support

Thursday, Utah Senator Bob Bennett became the first Latter-day Saint Senator to endorse Mitt Romney's bid for president. He's only the third Mormon Congressmen to do so, behind Representatives Buck McKeon and Mike Simpson. This is somewhat significant, because two other Latter-day Sains in Congress, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon and Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona, have already come out in support of John McCain.

It's made me wonder how many of the Mormon Congressmen will end up endorsing Romney. I think it's a safe bet that the LDS Democrats, Senator Harry Reid and Representatives Jim Matheson, Eni Faleomaveaga, and Tom Udall won't (Rep. Mark Udall was also raised Mormon, but it isn't clear whether he self-identifies as LDS always anymore, regardless, he almost certainly won't support Romney either). What about the rest? Senator Mike Crapo's fellow Idahoan, Senator Larry Craig (who is not LDS), signed onto Romney's campaign with Senator Bennett Thursday. Can Crapo be far behind? What about Senator Orrin Hatch? Or Represntatives Herger, Doolittle, Istook, Bishop, or Cannon? What about prominent politicians like HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt or Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons?

I'm not sure what to make of the lag time on some of these endorsements. It's possible many of these politicians are holding out simply to avoid the appearance of "too much" Mormon support. At the end of the day, I think most of them will end up behind Romney, but given the number of prominent Latter-day Saints who have already endorsed McCain, it's not entirely certain who will and who won't (beyond Sen. Smith and Rep. Flake, Utah Governor Jon Hunstman Jr., Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and wealthy homebuilding philanthropist Ira Fulton are among those endorsing McCain).

I see support among these well known Latter-day Saint politicians as a relevant issue for Romney because it could speak to what his support will be like among fellow members in both the primaries and, if he's nominated, in the general election. In states with significant Mormon populations (especially Arizona), this could be a decisive primary and general election issue.

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Blogger Jeff Fuller said...

I'm thinking that Hatch is DEFINITELY going to come out of for Romney. He's made some very pro-Romney statement and isn't a huge McCain fan. It's wise to hold Hatch back since he's the most prominent GOP Mormon Senator . . . and everyone associates him with being Mormon.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

I think you're right about Hatch. He definitely is no McCain fan. I heard him reference McCain in some remarks he made to a group I was a part of a couple of years ago and he spoke of him as a turncoat to the Republican party.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Probative said...

I would be interested to hear why you assume the LDS congressmen will support Romney. It is not clear who the GOP establishment will get behind. Romney's substantive positions aside, why is it so clear that other right-leaning LDS politicians will support his candidacy?

I will admit to having a certain parochial interest in his campaign. I can relate to his Mormonism, and it shines light on something for which I care. Yet this seems like an unsatisfactory reason, and maybe even narrow-minded.

If he wasn't LDS, would you have this blog?

6:04 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

Substantive positions aside??

I think that is the crux of the issue. LDS congressmen are not lining up because for religious reasons, as evidenced by some prominent LDS politicians declining to endorse him. Indeed, it seems as though it has more to do with politics than anything. A notable example is the divide in the Huntsman family. The governor is supporting McCain, while his father is supporting Romney.

Additionally, I take offense at the insinuation of being narrow-minded. I think that, in the LDS world, most of us were first exposed to Romney's political career because of his association with the LDS church. However, for some of us, the continuing support of Romney has little to do with his religion. Indeed, this blog has not been a religious based support system for Romney. We have objectively weighed Romney's campaign for its political merit and not its religious ferver.

It may make you feel superior to project your prejudices onto Romney supporters, but that doesn't make it true.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

Probative - I'm not sure I understand your comment. My post was aimed at raising the question of how many of these LDS Congressmen WOULD endorse for Romney. Two very prominent Congressmen have already announced their support for McCain, so I think it's clear that Romney is not assured the support of these fellow members of his faith. I think more of these politicians will come out in support of Romney, the question is who.

Your comment seems to imply that it is somehow irrelevant or "close-minded" to explore questions such as this. If I read you correctly, I strenuously disagree. Whether Romney will garner the support of his fellow Latter-day Saints could shed light on how he will fare in the primaries and, possibly, the general election.

Speaking to your last point, if Romney were not a Latter-day Saint, it's very possible that I may not have the interest in his campaign that I currently do. I don't see that as a contradiction. If Barack Obama weren't African-American or Hillary Clinton weren't a woman, would there possibly be less interest among some in their respective campaigns? Certainly. But I don't believe there is anything wrong with that. I, for one, follow their campaigns with an interest that is, in part, piqued by their race, gender and faith. These sorts of characteristics speak to who these candidates are and are relevant to voters. There is nothing narrow-minded about this.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Probative said...

At the end of the day, I think most of [the LDS persons in Congress] will end up behind Romney

Again, why do you think this? Could you say this about a group of non-LDS congreesmen, equal in size and ideological make-up?

I am not trying to make offense. I am just candidly exploring how our religious affiliation impacts our assessment and atraction to Romney.

You may be the exemptional few whose politics are purely the product of rationale deliberation. I think most academics and advisers would agree that the support a candidate draws is also determined by emotion and intangible identifiers. (Looks, region of origin, race, and faith).

9:40 AM  
Blogger Probative said...

If his substantive positions are the reason you think he will have the support of the LDS in government (i.e. "the crux of the issue"), why does this not apply to the the GOP establishment at large? And if you claim it does, what do you know that most other pundits don't? Most seem to agree that it is far from clear who will win the support of the GOP.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

Probative... You're misquoting me. I said I believe most of those who have not already endorsed a candidate will end up behind Romney (I'd already pointed out 7 LDS persons in Congress who WEREN'T endorsing him).

As for whether those who are uncommitted will support him, it remains to be seen. I think, however, that chances are likely most of those remaining will. They are all pretty conservative Republicans who don't seem to be big fans of McCain or Giuliani's candidacies. Moreover, I think there is a built in level of trust among them because of the faith they share. At the end of the day, I just don't LDS Republicans sharing in the same skepticism of Romney that might exist among other social conservatives. I'm not sure I'd make the same comparisons or assumptions about a non-LDS group, but being LDS myself gives me insight into this particular group. If you disagree with me, that's fine, but back it up. I'd be interested in hearing some concrete reasons why these men will endorse someone other than Romney. If all you're pointing to is the fact that there are conservative doubts about Romney then I think you aren't familiar enough with Mormon conservatives to understand that most conservative latter-day Saints don't seem to share that skepticism.

4:17 PM  

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