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Wednesday, December 19, 2007
posted by Justin Hart | 10:00 AM | permalink
Jim G., Jonathan Martin, and Soren Dayton are talking up the Mormon factor in the upcoming primaries, particularly in Iowa.

Let me give you the Mormon perspective on all this. The 22,000 number being thrown around is a bit misleading but the impact of the Mormon vote can hardly be ignored.

Let's set the baseline semantics so we get things right here.
  • A Ward is the equivalent of a parish. Mormon congregations are organized strictly by geography. At any Mormon chapel you might pass there are typically 2 to 4 wards that meet there. So, for example, in my Virginia suburb of Ashburn there are 4 wards. We all meet in the same building on Sunday and throughout the week. Each ward is comprised of roughly 400-600 members. A Branch is a smaller congregation that you might find in remote areas or that caters to ethnic groups (for example, a "Spanish Branch").
  • A Stake comprises about 9-12 wards (Think of "tent stake"). This is the local leadership structure that helps with regional activities and needs.
  • Mormons will sometimes refer to "active" and "inactive" members. Wards and Stakes track the "activity rate" (% of the ward that regularly attend Sunday meetings). This can range between 40% and 70%. As I understand it Iowa activity rates are somewhere between 50% and 60%.
  • In Iowa there are 7 stakes; 35 wards; 32 branches with roughly 22,000 members.
  • Potential caucus goers? When you subtract the number of eligible voters (Mormons have a lot of kids), take a chunk away for "inactive" members, and the narrow down that group to registered voters you get about 10,000 potential caucus goers. But Mormons love football as much as the next guy (the Orange Bowl happens to be that night with Kansas playing) and even with "their guy" in the race I wouldn't expect a dramatic 90% turnout from the Mormon base.
  • Also, consider, this isn't a lockstep vote. I know plenty of Mormons who are die hard Ron Paul fans.
Bottom line: I expect no more than 3000 extra votes for Romney from the Mormon base in Iowa. Still, that's roughly 6% of overall caucus voters and could mean the difference the race the way things are shaping up.

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I tend to think of it the other way. Mormons aren't going to swing this one way or another. Romney either has to appeal to Iowans other than the Mormon ones, or he's sunk.

The good news is that Romney should appeal to a broad base of support both in the primary, and in the general election. Hopefully this translates into an Iowa win.

I suspect that the Romney campaign has already thought through strategies for if they come in second in Iowa.

One good thing to come out of the Huckabee surge has been this - the expectations are totally reset in Iowa. A few months back it was like - Romney is dead if he doesn't totally blow away the competition in Iowa. Now that Huckabee has eaten away at Rudy's support elsewhere, people are recognizing that things are in play for Romney even if he doesn't win Iowa, and that's a good thing.

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