Mitt Romney’s Lament Highlights Trump’s Swing-State Mormon Problem
It says something about the frazzed-out state of American politics that a statement released three weeks before election day by a senior GOP senator and recent Republican presidential nominee decrying the “vile, vituperative, hate-filled morass” of contemporary discourse and singling out the Republican president by name generated about 90 minutes worth of reaction, then was quickly superseded by the usual clamor and splat.
Yet the broadside from Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah)—the only GOP senator to vote for impeaching Donald Trump—reflects a practical problem facing the president’s re-election campaign: Mormons, traditionally among the most rock-solid blocs within the conservative base, are defecting from the Republican Party. As a result, previously reliable red states could soon swing blue.
“A 2010 Gallup survey found that ‘Mormons are both the most Republican and the most conservative of any of the major religious groups in the U.S. today,'” Politico reported last month. But: “Mormon support for the Republican ticket dropped from 80 percent in 2004 and 78 percent in 2012, to 61 percent in 2016, even as most other Christians moved further to the right, according to Pew.”
A 2019 PRRI survey found that just 55 percent of Mormons hold favorable views of Trump, compared to 73 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 82 percent of Republicans overall. (Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [LDS] represent 2 percent of the U.S. population.)
Compared to other political and religious blocs, Mormons are among the most likely to prefer personal morality, limiting government in economic affairs, deploying the military abroad, and offering a welcome mat to immigrants. Each value puts them at odds with Trump.
Romney is no LDS outlier. When a behind-the-scenes Access Hollywood tape from 2005 surfaced four years ago last week showing then-celebrity Donald Trump bragging that, as a “star,” he could just “grab” women “by the pussy,” and they just “let you do it,” it was elected Mormons—Sen. Mike Crapo (R–Idaho), Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah), Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Arizona)—who led the GOP defection from the party’s standard-bearer. Even before that, Trump had clashed frequently with both Flake and Lee, on grounds of both policy (they prefer to constrain government) and personal comportment.
The three most Mormon states—Utah (66 percent of the population), Idaho (26 percent), and Wyoming (12 percent)—have backed Republicans for president in the past 13 elections, by doubl
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