In the aftermath of last night’s GOP debate in Nevada, commentators noted that the audience seemed unusually friendly to Romney. In one instance the audience loudly expressed their disapproval for evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress’ claims that Mormonism is a cult. The audience also cheered Romney when he chastised Perry for refusing to repudiate Jeffress’ comments and, according to Talking Points Memo, “booed Perry and Santorum when they brought out the knives on health care and immigration.”
This may have everything to do with the demographics of Nevada, which has a much higher concentration of Mormon voters than its rival early primary and caucus states. For example, in New Hampshire, which has yet to announce its primary date, Mormons comprise a scant 1.1% of registered voters. In Iowa, which will hold its caucus on January 3, Mormons are only 1.4% of registered voters. South Carolina and Florida, which will hold their primaries in late January, have even more miniscule percentages (0.1% and 0.4%, respectively).
Given Mormons’ strong ties to the Republican Party, this will certainly help Romney in his fight for the GOP nomination. However, there are also significant implications for Romney’s chances in the general election as well. In 2008, Obama bested John McCain in Nevada by only 120,909 votes. If the race is closer in 2012, then Nevada’s significant population of Mormon voters could make all the difference.