I wrote several posts a few months back about the opportunity that Barack Obama had to gain support among American Latter-day Saints, particularly in the western US. In brief, I felt that Mormons were so upset about the anti-Mormon slurs being used against Mitt Romney that I felt there was a real opportunity for Obama to pick up significant LDS support in the general election.
Well, I now believe that such an opportunity is dwindling away, due to three main developments.
First, Mike Huckabee now appears to have lost his influence in the GOP campaign. Since his campaign and he himself were the worst offenders in anti-LDS slurs, that will go a long ways towards letting the anger that many Mormons felt towards such appalling tactics die down.
Second, John McCain appears to have buried the hatchet with Mitt Romney — they’ve done fund-raising events together, something McCain desperately needs help with — and there is serious talk about Romney as VP. (Personally, I’d rather see Condi Rice as VP, but I think she may carry too much baggage from the Bush Administration to be seriously considered.) Anyway, the McCain-Romney reconciliation likewise goes a long ways towards smoothing over some of the anti-Mormon jabs that came out of the McCain campaign in the primaries. Note, however, that there are still “social conservatives” (read: Evangelicals) who are apoplectic at the thought of Romney as VP. If this is seen as having torpedoed Romney’s selection as VP, McCain support could dwindle again.
I love the government and the Constitution of this land, but I do not love the damned rascals that administer the government. — Brigham Young
Third, and the real kicker, the whole flap over various sermons by Rev. Jeremiah Wright — and Obama’s only half-hearted attempts to distance himself from Wright’s more inflammatory remarks — has likely diminished most of the support that Obama might have gained among Latter-day Saints. In particular, the clip of Rev. Wright saying, “G** d*** America!” — which was repeatedly shown on the various news channels — would likely be very offensive and disturbing to most Americans Mormons. In spite of our own history of religious persecution and having to flee the United States for what was then Mexico (and is now Utah — which gives me a great idea for a new Absolut Vodka ad showing the kingdom of Deseret), American Mormons are profoundly patriotic and believe very much in American exceptionalism, even as we decry some of the idiocies of the past and present. And while we still wince over comments made by a few past Church leaders, in most such cases said leaders have been dead for decades or over a century, rather than being alive and now building a $1.6 million home in a mostly-white, affluent neighborhood (which raises questions about many of Rev. Wright’s comments and sermons).
Things could change again. McCain could do something profoundly stupid, such as choosing Mike Huckabee as VP, though I consider that highly unlikely. On the other hand, Obama’s most recent comments — about small-town people in Pennsylvania being “bitter” and “clinging to guns or religion” — aren’t going to play very well with Mormons living in the intermountain West.
In short, I just don’t think any significant shift to Obama is going to happen. ..bruce..