"All I know is that every Mormon I know is a good and decent person, has great moral values," the former Pennsylvania senator said in a TV interview.
The low-key approach to the Mormon vote by Gingrich and Santorum is probably a sign that neither believes he can do much to blunt Romney's overwhelming support.
"I think that's probably the assumption in a lot of camps," said Zachary Moyle, a Nevada Republican consultant working with Santorum's campaign.
Church members have held great influence in the state's affairs since they settled in Nevada during the second half of the 19th century.
Nevada's U.S. senators, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Dean Heller, both are Mormon. Church members make up 14 percent of the state Legislature, and the mayors of the state's second and fourth most populous cities, Henderson and North Las Vegas, also are Mormon. Church members are credited with helping Reid narrowly win re-election against Republican John Ensign in 1998. The contest was decided by 428 votes.
The church stresses political engagement, urging its members to "play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections," according to its website.
"We as a Mormon people have always been encouraged to be involved in civic affairs," said Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, who campaigned for Romney in 2008 and planned to call voters this week to urge them to caucus.
Church members are also taught that the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired and that the nation's founders were directed by God.
"It's not that the church goes around knocking on doors saying, 'Please, get out the vote,'" said Republican pollster Gary C. Lawrence, a former Mormon clergyman. "We just feel strong about defending the country and defending the Constitution. And you can't be true to that principle without voting."
There could be an opening for Paul, Gingrich and Santorum. In a heated battle to be crowned the anti-Romney, all three candidates have stressed their socially conservative roots, values that appeal to church voters who are taught to oppose abortion and gay marriage.
Jorja Leavitt, 33, went to Brigham Young University in Utah with one of Romney's sons and voted for Romney in 2008. But the Las Vegas marketing consultant said he won't be able to count on her vote again. She said Paul's anti-war and anti-intervention policies are more closely aligned with the church.
"My church beliefs aren't separate from any of my other beliefs," she said. "Mormons are very peaceful people. We are not known for aggression, and I think Ron Paul embodies that."
Las Vegas political consultant Jesse Law said Paul's campaign has been aggressive about calling church voters and using Mormon terms like "brothers" to describe his church supporters. In contrast, Romney has done little Mormon-specific outreach this year, leading some voters to question whether he is taking them for granted.
Law said campaigns in Nevada overlook the Mormon vote at their own peril.
"These are the super voters," said Law, a Mormon tea party supporter. He's voting for Paul.
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