Big Mormon turnout for Mitt Romney expected in Nevada caucus vote
"I think the LDS are independent. We try to keep politics away from our religion," he said. "We like good men and good women. I liked Newt until I found out more about him."
Charlyn Lee, a health inspector from Las Vegas, said she was still trying to choose between Romney and Paul, who has run for president before as a Libertarian.
She laughed when asked whether Romney's faith was a factor. "Coming from Harry Reid's state, not really," Lee said, referring to the U.S. Senate majority leader from Nevada, a Mormon and a Democrat.
Members of the LDS Church only make up about 7 percent of Nevada's population. But in 2008, Mormons made up about one-fourth of the GOP caucus participants.
"They're significant because they turn out at such high rates," University of Nevada, Las Vegas political science professor David Damore said of LDS voters.
Mormon voters are going to be even more motivated to turn out for Romney Saturday, Damore said, because he is the frontrunner after coming off a big victory in Florida .
"This time, they're going to be highly engaged and highly mobilized," Damore said, because they have the chance to give him back-to-back wins.
A number of Utahns have traveled to Nevada to volunteer here for Romney; others are telephoning Silver State voters from a call center in Orem.
Fraser Bullock, who was brought in by Romney to serve as chief operating officer of the 2002 Olympics, said LDS voters appreciate his efforts to salvage the image of the state most associated with their faith, as home to the LDS Church's world headquarters.
"The Olympics were in deep trouble and our state had some clouds hanging over it, so to speak, at the time of the scandal," Bullock said. "To be able to reverse that, to be able to restore if not enhance the image, could have been a big factor in the LDS community."
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and a longtime Romney adviser, said Nevadans "were up close and personal to the job he did for the Olympics. And, of course, there's a strong LDS community."
Damore said only about 20 percent of Nevada Mormons are Democrats. Given's Romney's 20-point lead over Gingrich in the new Nevada poll, Damore said only the most motivated voters may show up for their party caucuses.
"Your average Republican, I can't see them to be galvanized to do this tomorrow," he said, suggesting that could also mean a surprisingly strong showing for Paul, whose supporters are known to be loyal.
But with a good turnout from LDS voters, Damore said Romney could top 50 percent again this election.
Carey Noorda, an orthodontist from Henderson, said he'd just as soon not hear about how his faith figures into the election.
"I really hope they don't talk about that," Noorda said. "I really hope they vote for Romney not because he's a Mormon but because of his values and because of his policies."
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