What to Watch Tonight—Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz’s Mormon Connections

February 23rd, 2016

According to the most recent polling, about 45% of tonight’s caucus goers in the Nevada Republican Caucus will cast a vote for Donald Trump. If that holds up, Trump is poised for another big victory.

What will be interesting to watch is what happens in second place.  Barring something quite extraordinary, all the drama tonight will be in the race for runner-up.

Nevada is a unique state as early Republican voting states is concerned. While most of the early states and Super Tuesday contests feature strong numbers of evangelical voters, Nevada boasts an entirely different religious demographic equally powerful in proportional terms to the rest of the voting population and quite organized and that’s the Mormons.

For the past two election cycles, the Republican field featured prominent Mormon, Mitt Romney.  While many argue that being a Mormon affected the outcome in the 2012 contest against Barack Obama because evangelicals allegedly stayed home, it probably helped him in the primaries in states with large Mormon populations.

When you think Nevada, the word “Mormon” probably doesn’t easily come to mind and yet Mormons were among the earliest settlers of the state.

In fact, Las Vegas was founded by Mormons.

No kidding.

While no Mormon is currently on the ballot, there is a former Mormon who also happened to spend many of his formative years in Nevada and that’s Senator Marco Rubio.

In fact, Rubio has racked up quite an impressive list of Mormon elected official endorsements recently. Among them are Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Jason Chaffetz. To top it off, his Nevada Campaign Chairman is Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison.  Yes, he’s also a Mormon.

Evidently, Mitt Romney also appears to favor Rubio.  Several reports indicate he’ll eventually endorse the Florida senator.

Given all that, you might assume that Rubio holds a secret weapon in today’s caucus, but that’s not entirely the case.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has a couple of big Mormon weapons in his own arsenal.  The most important of these is conservative media icon Glenn Beck who is stumping the state for the senator and who can largely be credited with Cruz’s political ascent over the past few years.

Cruz’s background and personal stand on the issues doesn’t hurt either.  A former Supreme Court clerk, the cornerstone of Cruz’s campaign is defending the Constitution which the Mormon Church officially regards as a divinely inspired document.

Being the Constitution’s biggest defender can only help when you’re trying to appeal to an electorate that regards that document to be inspired by God.

Who will come out ahead between Cruz and Rubio?  It will be fascinating to watch.  Equally interesting will be seeing if each of them continues on to Super Tuesday and how much Mormons help them get there.

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