He's the only Mormon in the presidential race, but that doesn't mean Mitt Romney is the only candidate Mormons support. Another favorite White House hopeful? Ron Paul, whose demand that Washington strictly adhere to the Constitution has some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints singing his praise.
"You cannot grow up in the church and not hear of and be taught that the Constitution is an inspired document," says Connor Boyack, a Mormon who heads the Utah Tenth Amendment Center. "And when it comes to who best supports and defends the Constitution, Ron Paul is that guy."
In Paul's hunt for convention delegates, the Mormon vote will be key in early caucus states such as Nevada, where 25 percent of GOP caucus-goers in 2008 were LDS members. Exit polls from 2008 show nine of 10 Mormon voters cast ballots for Romney, but the Texas congressman is seeing a surge in support there and elsewhere.
While the Salt Lake City-based church does not officially endorse any candidate for president, members like Boyack have been preaching the gospel of Ron Paul. Boyack explains that Romney might be a brother in faith, but Paul's commitment to upholding the tenets of the Constitution make him a more ideological choice for Mormons. A controversial and sometimes persecuted group, Mormons have historically looked to the Constitution as a safeguard to preserve their religious freedom. The Constitution is even mentioned in the church's Doctrine and Covenants, described as revelations to the church's founder, Joseph Smith. Brigham Young University religion professor Richard Bennett says the devotion to the Constitution came after an 1833 attack on a Mormon church in Missouri. Bennett says God told Smith to use the Constitution to fight the persecution of his church. [Read: Ron Paul Resonates with Latino Voters in Florida.]
Paul's team has been quick to highlight the Mormon support, setting up a special "Latter Day Saints for Ron Paul" Facebook page ("liked" by over 1,300 fans). It's one of a number dedicated to pro-Paul coalitions, including evangelicals, Protestants, and Catholics, as well as truckers, gamers, and accountants. The candidate is also featured in a five-minute Web ad, recycled from the 2008 campaign, titled, "Ron Paul preserves, protects, defends LDS Constitution view."
Paul spokesman Gary Howard says, "Members of the LDS church make up one of those important coalitions, all of which are great assets in this campaign. Dr. Paul's message resonates with everyone who believes in the principles he espouses: limited government, personal and economic liberty."