Mormons Deliver for Mitt: Inside How One Nevada Caucus Chose Romney

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Feb. 4 2012 9:07 PM

Mitt Wins Nevada With Friends and Family

With the help of his fellow Mormons—and his second cousin—Romney had it all along.

(Continued from Page 1)

Four more caucus-goers speak out, all for Romney.

“He’s taken jobs and done them well for no pay,” says Dawson White, a Mormon businessman. “It might seem funny, but I like the fact that he has so many grandkids. I don’t think he can help but care about the future.”

Royce Rasmussen, a Mormon who travels to sell cleaning equipment, makes a more fiscal pitch for Romney. “My costs have increased between 7 and 9 percent, just to be abreast of the rules and regulations to run a business,” he says. “I’ve got a bank meeting in March—I have no idea how to make a forecast for the new year. I’m voting for Romney”—he turns his head to the woman next to him—“and I hope my wife does, too!”

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Withers speaks up. She’d detected some people ruling out Paul because of his foreign policy. “If you look at a pie graph of how many years we’ve been in wars, it’s only a sliver that we haven’t,” she says.

“I just can’t imagine him as a president,” says Monica Johns, apologetically. “Going in there and negotiating with other leaders—can’t really imagine that.”

“I want [Paul] to tutor the other candidates in the Constitution,” says Rasmussen.

“He could do both,” says Withers. “He’s going to be remembered as the modern Thomas Jefferson.” She doesn’t want to give up on the foreign policy. “The terrorists aren’t just attacking us because they hate our way of life.”

“No,” says Gray, “they’re angry at us because their God tells them to be!”

Withers isn’t going to win. “You should watch the movie From Freedom to Fascism,” she suggests. “Google it; you can watch it on YouTube.”

As she wraps up, three stragglers and a kid walk in, sit down, and grab papers to vote with. The balloting takes less than a minute. Romney: nine. Paul: two. Santorum: two. The new arrivals, all Mormons, had voted for the winner.

“Eight of the nine votes for Romney were [Latter-day Saints],” says Rasmusssen, strolling out to find the delegate table. He thanks the Ron Paul supporters: “This was a very polite discussion!” Some of the Mormon couples chat on the way out; we are in a 400-strong Mormon ward in the near western suburbs of Vegas, where the Strip is visible from any third or fourth floor. In 2008, 26 percent of the Republicans who caucused were Mormon. On the way out, as the delegates write $40 checks, it’s obvious that the pattern is repeating itself.

“One of the guys in my [caucus] room was named Norm Romney,” says George Rivers, who, despite a Brigham Young University degree and a Romney ballot, is not Mormon. “Would you know it? He’s Romney’s second cousin.”

Inside the school, I hadn’t been able to get a good cellphone signal. Outside, the signal comes back, and tweets flood in about the 5-1, 7-1, 10-1 margins that Romney is winning in Clark County. If you had looked at the Nevada vote in 2008 and guessed what would happen if Romney and Paul ran again, you would have guessed exactly this: a big Mitt win, a libertarian surge. It’s a fluke of the primary schedule, a result of some pre-2008 maneuvering by Sen. Harry Reid to empower his state, and it was always going to empower the Mormon candidate and the “End the Fed” guy. On Saturday, in small rooms and friendly conversations, Nevada Republicans were squeaking shut the door on anyone not named Romney.