Mitt Romney's Mormon faith was supposed to be a drawback among many voters as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination. But in the Nevada caucuses, it helped.
Mormons accounted for one-quarter of the GOP electorate in Nevada, and 91 per cent of them voted for Romney, according to entrance polls.
Romney also did relatively well among the evangelical and born-again Christians who were thought by political strategists to be anti-Romney or at least skeptical about him and his faith. About 48 percent of such voters backed Romney, while only 26 percent backed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 15 percent went to Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and 11 per cent supported former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
The upshot: Perhaps the "Mormon issue" won't be as harmful to Romney as thought earlier as the Republicans look for the most electable candidate against President Obama, not someone who fully reflects their religious views.
Steve Schmidt, the campaign manager for Republican nominee John McCain in 2008, told the New York Times yesterday that most voters have already decided whether Romney's faith is an important issue, and they don't want to hear about it any more. "It's baked into the cake," Schmidt said.
But there are some indications that the Mormon issue has yet to be fully ventilated. Romney's faith did seem to matter in South Carolina, where Gingrich won a primary last month. And there will be another series of tests of how much Mormonism matters in the upcoming Southern primaries where evangelical and born-again voters will again be prominent.
The question is whether other issues, such as the economy and electability, will be more important, as they were in Florida and Nevada. Romney won both of those states.