In Arizona, Romney Can't Take Mormons For Granted | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

In Arizona, Romney Can't Take Mormons For Granted

Play associated audio

The wind howls on a blustery Sunday morning in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, as well-dressed families pull into the parking lot of a Mormon church.

Mormon pioneer roots run more than a century deep in this part of the state, an isolated spot between two Indian reservations.

Karen Johnson is among the Mormon faithful, passionate about God and country.

"I have the gene," Johnson said, laughing. "It's the gene of freedom and liberty. In our faith, we have been taught that the Constitution is like unto Scripture. That we should know and understand the Constitution as well as we understand the Bible, that we should support it, and we should look for and uphold righteous men."

For Johnson, that righteous man is GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — perhaps the nation's highest profile Mormon — may have the support of many Mormons here, but Johnson sees little to like.

Johnson said many of her fellow Mormons are "not thinking for themselves. ... If they did, they would be supporting the one that supports the Constitution."

Johnson has a laundry list of complaints against Romney. She calls him a big-government conservative. She slams his foreign policy, especially Romney's stance that he'd be willing to bomb Iran.

"It's right there in black and white in the Book of Mormon. We are supposed to be a people of peace," said Johnson, who lives in Linden, Ariz., in Navajo County.

"A lot of people believe that libertarianism actually lines up better with Mormon doctrine than the mainstream political parties do, and they are quite vehement," said Matthew Bowman, a religion professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

Bowman called opinions like Johnson's "a kind of moralistic Mormon libertarianism."

There's a noticeable streak of Mormon libertarianism in the West, and the Ron Paul campaign has actively courted that vote, Bowman said.

Paul made small inroads in this year's Nevada caucuses, getting 5 percent of Mormon support — higher than he received in 2008.

Meanwhile, Romney lost 7 percent of the Mormon support he enjoyed four years ago in Nevada. Romney is still overwhelmingly popular among Mormons. But he's paying attention to voters like Johnson.

The nation's founding documents "were either inspired by God, or written by brilliant people, or perhaps a combination of both those things. But we have in those documents the way forward for America," Romney said this week, during a campaign event in Mesa, Ariz.

Romney's a formidable candidate in the White Mountains. In Arizona's 2008 primary, he beat home state Sen. John McCain in just three counties — all in eastern Arizona.

Janette Larsen and her teenage son are Romney supporters. "We love to discuss politics at our house," said Larsen, who plans to vote for Romney in Arizona's Feb. 28 Republican primary. Not because he's a fellow Mormon, she said, but because she considers him a moderate.

"I would hope that people would put a lot of research and thought and even prayer into the person that they choose to support. I don't think it needs to be based on our religion, because obviously within any religion there will be differences of opinion on how to get things done," said Larsen.

But for Larsen's husband, John, religion plays a bigger role in the way he'll vote. He's a church leader, a social conservative, and still undecided on a candidate. Just like many Mormons, he has a religious respect for the U.S. Constitution and its authors.

"I believe they wrote it under influence, inspiration, whatever word you want to use, of the Almighty for this land to be set aside as his nation, as his promised land," he said.

Copyright 2012 KJZZ-FM. To see more, visit http://kjzz.org/.

NPR

'Passages' Author Reflects On Her Own Life Journey

Gail Sheehy is famous for her in-depth profiles of influential people, as well as her 1976 book on common adult life crises. Now she turns her eye inward, in her new memoir Daring: My Passages.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Go To The Border To Court Voters

Republicans have won every statewide office in Texas for 20 years, but the growing Hispanic population tends to vote Democrat, and the GOP's survival may depend on recruiting Hispanic supporters.
NPR

In San Diego, A Bootcamp For Data Junkies

Natasha Balac runs a two-day boot camp out of the San Diego Supercomputer Center for people from all types of industries to learn the tools and algorithms to help them analyze data and spot patterns in their work.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.