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2012: The Mormon Campaign

MCQ - February 2, 2011

After reading this story, I began to wonder what the 2012 campaign will be like if Romney and Huntman are both running.  If both run, as seems likely, it will be the first time that two members of the Church will be in the race for president with a realistic chance to win.  UPDATE:  Here’s an interersting graphic. 

It seems like the GOP nomination is Romney’s to lose.  He’s been laying the groundwork since 2008, while denying that he’s running.  Huntsman is just starting the race and seems as though he would be well behind, but he also does not have the same negatives that could continue to dog Romney.  Even if he can’t beat Romney, this may be Huntsman’s year to run a close race and set himself up for 2016 or a place at the table in a Romney administration, if Romney were to prevail against the eventual Democratic nominee.

There are others, obviously, who could enter the race and win the nomination, but at this point, it seems very possible that the Republican nominee will be Mormon.  At the very least, a race between thse two candidates will generate a lot of interesting discussion, both about the Church and about them personally.  What are your thoughts?  Do you think the country is ready for a Mormon president?  Do you think it’s even possible?  What about just winning the Republican nomination?  Can a Mormon accomplish that goal with the evangelical vote being so critical?


  1. Romney supported (state level) health care mandates. Huntsman supported cap and trade. He still may, which is somewhat of a handicap in a world where the GOP is overwhelmingly against it.


    To me, Huntsman sounds like he would make a good Democratic candidate. Conservative Republican, not so much. Romney appears to be conservative enough to get the Republican nomination, but I can hardly imagine Huntsman getting the nomination in today’s political context unless he starts defending conservative principles with at least the tenacity Romney did last time around.

    Last knock against Huntsman is that he is responsible for shutting down the Utah state government every Friday, which has got to be one of the most politically correct, yet counterproductive moves I have ever seen. Arnold Schwarzenegger style governance, more or less. Understandable for a Republican in a liberal state, but in a conservative state reasonably compelling evidence that one isn’t a conservative.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 3, 2011 @ 1:08 am

  2. As far as the Mormon angle goes, I believe that either candidate would face relatively little impact in a national election on account of religion. A primary is different, because there are more alternatives and the stakes aren’t as high. Easier to swing on marginal factors.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 3, 2011 @ 1:13 am

  3. I don’t want either of them, because I don’t want a Republican.

    Comment by Naismith — February 3, 2011 @ 4:58 am

  4. I’m with Naismith.

    Comment by Dan — February 3, 2011 @ 5:04 am

  5. I think they might split a lot of votes between them, and open the door for someone else.

    How about this … A Romney/Huntman ticket with the possibility of a Mormon President and a Mormon Vice President. Oh my.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — February 3, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  6. Domocratic nominee

    Was this deliberate or Freudian?

    I don’t want to keep repeating myself on every blog that brings this up, but Huntsman is no threat to Romney in 2012. Only Huckabee and (maybe) Palin could beat Romney. Huntsman is positioning himself for 2016, when a backlash against the tea party is likely.

    Comment by Last Lemming — February 3, 2011 @ 7:42 am

  7. Oh yeah. And by 2016, the whole Mormon thing will be so yesterday.

    Comment by Last Lemming — February 3, 2011 @ 7:43 am

  8. Huntsman and Romney aren’t what Republicans want right now (though Romney will give it his best shot at pretending). Maybe in 2016 when the Tea Party is a less vocal part of the GOP.

    I personally would definitely vote Obama over Romney, and probably Obama over Huntsman. I like Huntsman, he’s very moderate in a variety of areas. I think he’d do well with Independents, but the type of people that like Sarah Palin would never give him a chance.

    I still don’t see being LDS as a positive in most states during an election, but Romney may have helped the situation two years ago, and possibly it won’t matter in five years.

    Comment by jjohnsen — February 3, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  9. “Last knock against Huntsman is that he is responsible for shutting down the Utah state government every Friday, which has got to be one of the most politically correct, yet counterproductive moves I have ever seen.”

    I haven’t looked into it much, why is it so counterproductive? I haven’t heard complaints from anyone,and the state employees I’ve talked to love it. Does it not save the money that was promised?

    Comment by jjohnsen — February 3, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  10. Naismith and Dan, your responses don’t answer the questions I’m asking at all. If you can’t put aside partisanship long enough to even express an opinion about a candidate from another party, you’re of no use whatsoever. I’m certainly not anyone’s idea of a dyed in the wool Republican, but I can comment on Republican candidates as well as Democratic candidates. Maybe you could try that too. There are some issues that transcend your party affilliation. The role of religion in the campaign is one of those.

    Mark D., we don’t yet know what kind of candidate Huntsman is going to be. He may run to the right as Romney has tried to do in the primaries before. I do think that both of them are much more moderate than the political climate is right now in the GOP, Huntsman maybe more so than Romney, but I’m not totally convinced that the tea partiers are going to continue to carry the day in the GOP through 2012. It will be interesting to find out.

    As for the issue of shutting down the state gov’t on Fridays, I can’t see how that hurts Huntsman. It’s a cost saving measure that, by all reports, has worked. The proof of that is that Huntsman’s successor has not changed it, and there has been no outcry from the conservatives here in Utah to do so. If there were any problem with it at all, it would have been changed long ago. I think it’s largely a popular move, and has little or nothing to do with political correctness.

    Comment by MCQ — February 3, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

  11. LL, we don’t have any indication yet that Huckabee and Palin are running do we? Personally, I don’t consider either one of them to be a serious mainstream candidate. I think they will both do well in some isolated areas: Huckabee in the south, Palin on mars, but to get the nomination, you have to run well outside your base. I don’t think either one of them can do that.

    Comment by MCQ — February 3, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  12. I think you DRASTICALLY overestimate the appeal of Romney to anyone who is not Mormon. I don’t think he has any. At all. While I agree that he is likely to run, I think he is going nowhere again.

    While Huntsman is a more appealing candidate to me (I am NOT Republican), and given his recent resignation that seems more probable than ever, I would be surprised if he got much traction. I agree with those who have indicated a more outspoken conservative is a more likely choice for this run, but maybe Huntsman is getting ready for 2016, by which time, I hope Romeny will have given up. I would be very interested in seeing Huntsman run in 2016.

    While I have no particular interest in having a Mormon candidate, having 2 might be interesting. They would have to debate and differentiate from each other which may chip away at the notion that Mormons have a Borg-like collective opinion on political issues. Even better to have a strong Mormon candidate in each party. I actually think that would go a long way to allay non-Mormon’s fears that a Mormon candidate would be controlled by the prophet. (For whatever reason, Harry Reid does not accomplish this).

    Comment by ESO — February 4, 2011 @ 8:04 am

  13. ESO, I’m not sure why you say that about Romney. He didn’t go nowhere last time around, he was a real contender for the nomination. This time, he has been working to build support for a very long time in key states. He will undoubtedly do better than last time. Many publications (not Mormon ones) have picked him as the candidtate to beat. His qualifications are many and cannot be disputed. As a business leader, he is an unparalleled success. There may be any number of reasons for not liking him, but you can’t say he has no appeal. He has proven that he does.

    Comment by MCQ — February 4, 2011 @ 10:46 am

  14. He has GREAT appeal to Mormons, and clearly some appeal to conservatives in Massachusetts. He is a total-turn off to many Republicans almost solely because of his religion, but somewhat because of his record in MA, making all sorts of compromises that make him look RINOish. I am not disputing his qualifications, but lets be clear: he went as far as he did (second or third to the ultimately losing candidate–is that somewhere?) because he was willing to use so much of his own money. IMO, he is only a contender because he is a rich kid, not because he is actually very popular.

    IMO, not getting the nomination is “going nowhere” and I don’t think he has any chance at getting the nomination. I could be wrong; I didn’t think anyone would take Sarah Palin seriously, but, whoa was I wrong.

    I don’t think political speculation is terribly predictive. I do think that if I were a political journalist, I would have to write about the well-known unannounced candidate who is doing the things that candidates do.

    Comment by ESO — February 4, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

  15. So you have to get the nomination to “go somewhere?” Most candidates are not successful at getting the nomination their first time out. You have to be willing to take your lumps and keep coming back.

    I really hate that RINO thing with a passion. The demos do the same thing with DINO and it’s equally stupid. The implication is that you can’t be a true member of either party if you’re a moderate or have any views that don’t conform to the most extreme wing of either party. Assinine. Most intelligent people have well-informed, thoughtful and nuanced views that don’t track right down the red meat line. But they have to hide those views in the primaries because otherwise they will be eaten alive by the know-nothing blowhards who cater to the extremists.

    The rich-kid label is a red herring, and is actually pretty inaccurate. All major candidates in the presidential race are pretty well-funded nowdays. At least Romney earned his money. Calling him a rich kid implies that he inherited it, instead of being the successful business man that he is. I’m surprised that you think he has no chance. He may lose, but he definitely has a chance.

    Comment by MCQ — February 4, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  16. I hate the RINO thing too. For one it is pretty disparaging about different movements within the party. For an other it elevates some decisions that are controversial. (i..e Huntsman or even Chris Cannon of all people being called a RINO due to a different opinion on how to solve immigration)

    The people who call Huntsman moderate have to be clear why he is. From what I can tell folks say it because (1) he wasn’t extreme enough on immigration and (2) he favored civil unions for gas in place of marriage. Sorry, if those make one a moderate then something is fundamentally weird. Huntsman a great fiscal conservative and unlike far too many tea partiers probably would have a chance of actually achieving fiscal responsibility.

    Comment by Clark — February 4, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  17. Huntsman is a fiscal conservative, but he is a moderate on most social issues from what I can tell, which is just fine by me.

    Comment by MCQ — February 4, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

  18. You asked for speculation on him winning the Republican nomination and I provided; I am not endorsing the term or the derision of the so-called RINO, just telling you what I think Republican reaction to another Romney run will be.

    By referring to him as a “rich kid” and not a popular one, I am placing presidential politics back in high school. Popular candidates get elected–those are the ones people like. I, personally, don’t find Romney very likable. I don’t think I am revealing any hidden truth that candidates who are willing to sink their personal wealth into their run, rather than rely on donations (which, face it, indicate voter enthusiasm) can stay in the race longer than those who just have to fold. In the last race, McCain (earlier in the primary) and Romney did it, Clinton and Edwards did it–they outlasted their popular support as indicated by campaign contributions. Obama did not have the same depth of personal wealth to dip into, and had to rely on donors, and those donors are, in the end, voters.

    Let me put it this way: I don’t know a single non-Mormon who is excited about a Romney campaign.

    Comment by ESO — February 4, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

  19. Clark, I think enthusiastic support for cap and trade and carbon taxes clearly puts Huntsman in the moderate camp with John McCain and Lindsay Graham. So does support for liberalized amnesty policies. The current conservative position is “enforcement first”. The Graham/McCain/Huntsman position has generally been “amnesty first”.

    MCQ, as far as the four day work week is concerned, who out there rationally believes that as much work is getting done in four days as previously used to get done in five, especially when the rest of the world, and the state is a whole is open every Friday and state offices are not?

    Of course state workers love it. It is the veritable equivalent of giving them a substantial pay raise. The value of having every Friday off compared to working a couple extra hours on Monday – Thursday is considerable.

    But what about the customers? If I ever need to call or visit a state office, Friday is the most likely day I am going to want to do it. If shutting down the state government one day a week is such a great idea, why is the practice virtually unheard of in private industry? Could a bank survive while shutting down every Friday, for example?

    It is the very nature of modern government to require constant interaction with constituents, licensees, and regulatees. Shutting down every Friday is bad customer service. It is one of those giveaways that is hard to reverse though, and more than anything confirms my perception of Huntsman as a non-serious politician. If this policy is such a wonderful thing, why hasn’t Hunstman International adopted it worldwide? Too entrenched in reality perhaps?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 4, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

  20. Alternatively, ask a serious economist how many points the GDP would drop if the United States as a whole adopted a standard four day work week. My guess is five points at the very minimum. The immediate effect would be a 2008 style recession.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 4, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

  21. ESO, my guess is that you don’t know many non-mormons.

    MarkD, if they are accurate, those may be reasons not to want a 4 day week for govt offices, but they do nothing to address the question we were talking about, which is whether Huntsman’s support for this measure is going to lose him votes among conservatives. The fact is that Utah is one of the most conservative states in the country and exactly no one is complaining about this or asking for a change.

    Comment by MCQ — February 5, 2011 @ 11:20 am

  22. MCQ–that’s nuts.

    Comment by ESO — February 5, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

  23. Republicans I hear people (real people I know, not writers or commentators) sound enthusiastic about (with some regional bias, of course): Huckabee, Guiliani, Pataki, Christie, Bloomberg (he of ever-changing party).

    Comment by ESO — February 5, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

  24. MCQ, its not a burning issue, but there are plenty of people concerned about it. The Deseret News published an editorial calling for it to be reconsidered. A legislative audit questioned whether it was actually saving any money at all.



    But this is all getting to be off topic, and I agree this isn’t particularly likely to affect the opinion of anyone outside the state. Enthusiastic support for cap and trade, carbon taxes, and amnesty will do that however.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 5, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  25. Thanks for those links, MarkD, I don’t read the DesNews much, so I hadn’r seen them.

    ESO, the only reason I said that is that there are well publicized supporters of Mitt Romney who are not Mormon. The idea that support for Romney is limited to Mormons is just not credible at this stage of the game.

    The man won 11 primaries and caucuses, in which about 4.7 million people voted for him, including 280 delegates in the convention.

    Also, Romney has raised more money to date than any other prospective 2012 candidate. You said earlier that fund raising was a good measure of popularity, didn’t you? By that measure, Romney has the broadest popularity of anyone currently in the race. Unless, of course, all the people giving money to Romney are Mormon.

    Comment by MCQ — February 5, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

  26. Yeah, let’s take a look at those primaries he won:

    North Dakota

    Take away the states in which he or his father were governor and the states with significant Mormon populations, and you have a bunch of contests which are, frankly, fairly inconsequential in our primary system. When he wins New York, Florida, Texas, or California, I’ll consider him major.

    I haven’t seen his donor list for 2012, but do you doubt that a good chunk of them aren’t Mormon? I don’t.

    At this point in the 2008 election season, Romney was considered the front runner for the Republican nomination, too. He may do better than last time, but I still don’t think he will be the nominee.

    Comment by ESO — February 5, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

  27. MCQ,

    Naismith and Dan, your responses don’t answer the questions I’m asking at all. If you can’t put aside partisanship long enough to even express an opinion about a candidate from another party, you’re of no use whatsoever. I’m certainly not anyone’s idea of a dyed in the wool Republican, but I can comment on Republican candidates as well as Democratic candidates. Maybe you could try that too. There are some issues that transcend your party affilliation. The role of religion in the campaign is one of those.

    Fair enough. Romney will never win because he shifted too much in all directions. Huntsman will not win in 2012 because he has no name recognition, and unlike Obama, who also had little name recognition, he doesn’t have an interesting backstory that will draw him out of a crowd, nor does he, as far as I know, speak as eloquently or as amazingly as Obama to differentiate himself from the rest of the GOP crowd, who use ridiculous fearmongering to get themselves heard among GOPers. The moment I hear Huntsman say something ridiculous about Obama is the moment he lost my vote. And sadly, to win the GOP, Huntsman is going to have to say something ridiculous about Obama. It’s the nature of the Republican brand. Say something really dumb and you get ahead. Mitt “Double Guantanamo” Romney knows this. Sarah Palin obviously knows this, though for her, it’s her natural self. How’s that for expounding on what was so beautifully said in just one sentence: I’d rather not vote Republican.

    Comment by Dan — February 5, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

  28. ESO, you’re backtracking. But you may be right that he won’t win the nomination. I think the most likely thing said so far though, is that Huntsman’s entry into the campaign will split the Romney vote. Romney should probably try to make a deal with Huntsman and keep him out of the race.

    I do think, though, that having another credible Mormon in the campaign will remove the novelty from Romney’s religion and make it a moot issue.

    Dan, don’t toot your own horn. Nothing you say is ever said beautifully.

    Comment by MCQ — February 5, 2011 @ 11:42 pm

  29. I’m not backtracking at all. I still believe that he will “go nowhere,” defined as not being the Republican nominee.

    If the Tea Party hijacks the Republican party this time round, I think it would be an interesting year for a third party candidate, perhaps a relative moderate like Romney would do well there. By “well,” I mean be the nominee–I don’t think a third party candidate would actually win this year.

    Comment by ESO — February 6, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  30. So, think about it. Say the tea partiers put up Sarah Palin, the Republican vote gets split and we’ll have Hilary Clinton in the White House. I wouldn’t want Huntsman for president.

    Comment by annegb — February 6, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

  31. I don’t think Hillary is running. If the democrat wins, it’s going to be Obama. No way the dems are going to dump a siting president in the primary.

    But yeah, if the tea party is powerful enough to get Palin in as the nominee, the general election will be a bloodbath and the dems will win by a landslide. Palin and Huckabee are just not credible candidates in the general election.

    Comment by MCQ — February 6, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

  32. I can’t even come close to imagining that Sarah Palin is the consensus candidate of Tea Party supporters. If she runs, I imagine she will do it to play kingmaker, not out of any serious hope of getting elected. She is far too controversial for that, and I think she knows it.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 10, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

  33. Sarah Palin is a professional political celebrity. She had to give up governing Alaska because the job got in the way of cashing in on her fame. If she runs for president it will be to pump up the Palin brand for another year or two celebritying.

    Romney and Huntsman are both a lot richer than most candidates, probably a lot richer than anyone who could run in 2012 except Bloomberg. I wonder how that will play into perceptions of Mormons if both are running simultaneously.

    Comment by John Mansfield — February 11, 2011 @ 9:47 am

  34. My guess is that the perception of Mormons will shift slightly away from naive backwards polygamists and towards naive wealthy conservatives. The end result will be a whole new round of stereotypes and Mormon jokes. Yay.

    Comment by MCQ — February 11, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  35. This is the deal: Huntsman looks weird. He can’t win.

    Mitt Romney has a weird Dudley Do-Right thing going, but he’s got some kind of strength, too, beyond the weirdness.

    I don’t know that either of them is up to the bare knuckles aspect of running for president. Although, Romney at least has a clue. Because of his dad.

    Comment by annegb — March 23, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

  36. I’m the producer of a new film about Mormons and politics: http://youtu.be/4mvShCOHY_c. If interested, please read more about the film at thereligioustest.com and send me a link if you write a post about it. Thanks!

    Comment by Michael — June 3, 2012 @ 3:54 am

  37. Thanks Michael. Looks like a fascinating film and I would very much like to see it.

    Comment by MCQ — June 4, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

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