It was via an article by Rob Graham over at the Beehive Standard Weekly that I first learned of the outreach by Barack Obama campaign personnel towards Latter-day Saints here in the West. Now Rob has put together a rather lengthy commentary summarizing what’s been kicking around on various news sources and blogs: if Obama (w/out Clinton) is the Democratic candidate this fall, large numbers of Mormons may abandon the GOP and vote for Obama instead:
The many Mormons I have spoken to in attempting to obtain a read on how Mormons will vote in November are universally stating that they will either not vote for the Republican candidate, which is likely to be McCain, or they will vote for Obama as a candidate who will include Mormons in his campaign. If the candidate is Huckabee, the Mormons will turn out in droves to reject him as he openly used religion against the Mormons, which would result in a heavy vote for Obama.
Obama has taken note. In Obama’s Super Tuesday speech, he made it very clear that his candidacy is inclusive of disaffected Republicans, as well as those who share differing religious views — e.g., code word for Mormons. He is a smart character and he knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of bigotry. He perceives he can tap into that well and turn the Mormon vote in his direction. He can also bridge to the Mormons on race as Mormons have been viewed as intolerant because of excluding their priesthood leadership responsibilities where the rank-and-file Mormon population is far from racist and as a group they have been seeking a way to heal the perceived racist policies of the past. Many prominent black Americans, such as Gladys Knight, who have joined the church have found racial ignorance in the church’s mostly white and Hispanic population, but not intolerance or open racism in the church. With some patience, Obama can appeal to the members of the Mormon faith and become a popular symbol for overcoming the church’s past perceived isolationist and racially-based policies.
Of course, Obama sees the possibilities and recently sent his wife out to Salt Lake City to meet with two members of the Mormon Church hierarchy and had photographs taken with them. It was all smiles and mutual understanding. No one would have thought the Mormons would embrace so openly and warmly a black American candidate and his family, but bigotry, religious intolerance and racism does create a common cause and mutual understanding among its victims.
Like Evangelicals, Mormons also have their differences with liberals, but the feeling is different with Obama as he is reaching out and acknowledging the differences, but emphasizing the similarities while assuring Mormons that they would be treated with respect in expressing their differences. A close analysis of Obama’s policies finds some common ground which could result in broad-based support from Mormons. For instance, the Mormon emphasis on family values, education, welfare, compassion, self-reliance and the like are all significant political similarities.
Be sure to read the entire article. Graham pulls all the pieces together to a level of detail that no one has to date, at least not that I’ve seen. I fully believe that with some relatively modest but explicit outreach towards Latter-day Saints, Obama could indeed gain hundreds of thousands of votes in key Western states, including Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, and California. Given how few votes the last few Presidential elections have hinged upon, that could be enough to help Obama win the Presidency. ..bruce..