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Nevada caucuses: Mitt Romney banks on Mormon vote

February 04, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Mitt Romney poses for a photo with the Fisher family backstage before a campaign rally in Elko, Nev., Friday.
Mitt Romney poses for a photo with the Fisher family backstage before a campaign… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)

Mitt Romney's strength in Nevada is due in large part to the power of the state's sizable Mormon population.

In 2008, Romney won more than 50% of the caucus vote in Nevada, easily defeating second-place finisher Ron Paul, eventual GOP nominee John McCain and four other Republican hopefuls. It was one of 11 states he won before conceding.

Mormons make up about 7% of Nevada's population. But entrance polls conducted before the vote showed that Mormons made up 26% of the total Republican turnout. Romney won 95% of their votes.

Romney's faith was thought to be a potential liability in more socially conservative states. A pastor backing then-candidate Rick Perry caused a stir last fall by stating his view that Mormonism is a "cult" -- one he said was shared by many other evangelicals.

In South Carolina's primary, evangelicals and born-again Christians made up nearly two-thirds of the electorate; Newt Gingrich won 45% of them, while Romney won 21% -- about even with Rick Santorum.

The 2008 Nevada entrance poll showed Romney largely won across the board, losing only those who said they had no religion and who were self-identified independents. Both groups went for Ron Paul, though neither represented significant shares of the vote.

Self-identified "very conservative" voters made up 40% of the turnout, and 57% went for Romney, well ahead of Fred Thompson's 12%.

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