POLITICAL EYE: Paul pursues Mormon support

Texas Rep. Ron Paul is wooing the Mormon vote in Nevada -- one Mormon at a time.

Last week, Paul's presidential campaign released testimonials from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are backing him for the GOP nomination. More than a dozen members of the church cited his ideas for limited government and strict adherence to the Constitution.

"It's such a rare thing to find a politician that respects and supports our values," said David Isbell, a former political director of the Clark County Republican Party. "How lucky we are to have a presidential candidate, Ron Paul, with a congressional record of supporting our faith's understanding of the proper role of government."

"The other candidates are what would be called, in the business world, 'company men' who support those laws and institutions that have sidestepped the Constitution, minimized our God-given rights and legalized criminal acts such as the looting of our treasury," said Chloie Leavitt of Overton. "Brother Romney voted for the bailouts and supports the corrupt Federal Reserve."

Brother Romney would be Mitt Romney, an active member of the Mormon church and the GOP front-runner in the presidential race. A former Massachusetts governor, Romney didn't vote on any of the bank or industry bailouts that have upset conservatives looking to oust President Barack Obama.

Yet, Romney is seen as a "company man," a mover and shaker in the business world as the former head of Bain Capital, which bought and sold companies as turnaround artists. Romney's government and business experience has helped and hurt him as he seeks the GOP nomination.

Romney makes the argument he's the best candidate to fix the dismal economy and beat Obama come November.

Paul is Romney's strongest competitor in Nevada ahead of the Feb. 4 GOP presidential caucus, and the Texas congressman is trying to eat into Romney's solid support among Mormons here.

In 2008, about 25 percent of the 44,000 participants in the GOP presidential caucus were members of the LDS church and nine out of 10 of them backed Romney over Paul, who finished second behind Romney. Mormons are expected to turn out in force again, mostly for Romney, but Paul is focused on trying to peel away as many as he can in the days heading into the Feb. 4 caucus.

Paul launched a Facebook page for "Latter-day Saints for Paul" to focus the effort in Nevada and across the West, where most of the Mormon population is centered. Members of the church make up about 7 percent to 8 percent of Nevada's population and about 2 percent of Americans nationwide.

The Paul campaign also had a Mormon outreach phone bank last Friday and on Saturday walked door to door in Henderson to contact members of the church.

It's all part of Paul's campaign strategy to woo specific voting blocs -- whether it's Mormons, Hispanics, young voters or veterans -- in order to stay relevant in the presidential race and pick up enough delegates to have a say in the Republican National Convention.

-- Laura Myers


It came as little surprise when the detailed poll of U.S. Mormons released last week by the Pew Foundation confirmed they "tend to be quite conservative in their political leanings."

But the favorability rating for Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada who is a Democrat but also a fellow church member, rated at the bottom among eight political figures (poll results below).

Reid drew only a 22 percent positive rating, while 51 percent perceive him unfavorably and 27 percent either were unable to rate him or had no opinion, according to the poll.

Pew did not probe reasons behind the approval ratings. Quin Monson, associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University, said Reid's numbers might prompt a query as to why Mormons "don't cut him a little slack."

Reid has not made religion a big part of his political identity. He has not needed to in order to succeed politically in Nevada, Monson said.

So, many church members don't view him as much as a Mormon as an out-front advocate for somewhat unpopular Democratic policies.

"I have seen Senator Reid speak about his religion. His Mormon identity is a central part of who he is, but it is not something that comes up for him very often as majority leader," Monson said.

"If we had done this survey 10 years ago when Reid wasn't majority leader, he probably would have a better favorability among Mormons," he said.

Monson said Reid could be considered on par with President Barack Obama, who generated only a 25 percent favorable impression among Mormons. Hillary Clinton registered 42 percent favorable.

Reid, who likes responding to polls about as much as he likes talking about religion, did not comment on the Pew numbers.

Meanwhile, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon, drew an overwhelming 94 percent positive reaction among Mormon Republicans, and even a strongly positive 62 percent among Democrats.

Besides being a conservative, Romney publicly has embraced the faith, Monson noted.

"For Mormons who are religious and who identify strong with their faith there is a sense of solidarity and that comes through in the Pew data," he said.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, less conservative than Romney and a Mormon who has said he was not "overtly religious," drew a 50 percent favorable reaction. He was expected to drop out of the Republican presidential race today and endorse Romney.

-- Steve Tetreault


Mitt Romney began airing the first pre-GOP presidential caucus radio ads in Nevada last week.

"Mitt Romney's conservative plan to control spending and create jobs has been called the boldest GOP agenda since (Ronald) Reagan 1980," says the voice-over in the 60-second spot.

The ad also has four Nevada politicians speaking up for Romney: U.S. Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury.

The message: the former Massachusetts governor is the only Republican presidential candidate with the business and economic experience to turn around the U.S. economy.

"President Obama promised to put Americans back to work. He failed. Mitt Romney is a conservative businessman that has shown he can lead our economic recovery," Heck says.

The Nevada Democratic Party was quick to attack the ad and both Romney and Heck, who is targeted for defeat because he's running for re-election in a swing congressional district.

"Mitt Romney and Joe Heck share a reckless agenda that puts Wall Street bankers and tax cuts for billionaires ahead of Nevada families, so today's ad is no surprise," said Zach Hudson, spokesman for the state Democratic Party. "From their refusal to shut down Yucca Mountain, to trying to kill Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies, to deriding tax cuts for Nevada families, Romney and Heck could not be more out of touch with middle-class Nevadans."

Get used to seeing such a shotgun approach to political attacks in 2012.

In presidential election years, the top of the ticket can help lift -- or hurt -- the rest of the campaign field. The better Romney does in Nevada, the better other Republicans might do as they run for the state's four congressional seats, a U.S. Senate seat and even legislative posts. On the other hand, Obama can help elect Democrats if he turns out his supporters as he did in 2008.

-- Laura Myers

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

Mormons who are registered voters viewed the following political figures favorably, unfavorably or were unable to rate or had no opinion, according to a Pew Foundation poll.

 FavorableUnfavorableNo opinion
Mitt Romney86 percent10 percent4 percent
Jon Huntsman Jr.50 percent24 percent26 percent
Sarah Palin50 percent43 percent7 percent
Herman Cain43 percent37 percent19 percent
Rick Perry28 percent51 percent21 percent
Hillary Clinton42 percent55 percent3 percent
Barack Obama25 percent72 percent2 percent
Harry Reid22 percent51 percent27 percent
Source: Pew Foundation