The Mormon Factor
Tomorrow's straw poll in Ames, Iowa is being viewed as a key test of just how much support Mitt Romney has been able to muster with his huge investment in the Hawkeye State. The exercise could also provide a revealing indication of how much help Romney can expect to receive from a natural base of potential support, his fellow Mormons.
Iowa isn't exactly Mormon country, with an estimated 20,000 members of the LDS church out of a state population of about three million. But as one Romney supporter and LDS member told The Post in an interview this spring, if even a fraction of those 20,000 were to come out for Romney at the straw poll, it could give Romney a measurable boost, given that the poll isn't expected to draw much more than 40,000 attendees. "He'll draw pretty dang strong support [from Mormons] and in a state like Iowa it could definitely have an impact," said Jeff Fuller, an eye surgeon who recently moved from Iowa City to Louisiana but has continued to help oversee an "Iowans for Romney" Web site.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has strict rules against endorsing inside church walls or using membership lists for political purposes, and Romney officials in Iowa have said that they are not making any concerted effort to mobilize the local LDS community on behalf of Romney, a devout Mormon and former church leader in Massachusetts. Federal campaign finance reports suggest that Romney's impressive fundraising efforts have gotten a big lift from Mormons nationwide, with the $4 million he had received from Utah through June ranking above what he had received from his home state. And there are signs that Romney could also be aided in the Ames poll by this natural constituency. Keith Steurer, an engineer and LDS member who is the co-chair of Romney's campaign in Johnson County (Iowa City), said that many members of the LDS "stake" in Iowa City are planning to make the trip to Ames. While there is no Romney campaign group devoted to Mormon supporters, he said, LDS members can be found in campaign "coalitions" dedicated to family values and to health professionals.
"I would say we've had a really good response" among Iowa City Mormons, Steurer said. "As far as percentages on the buses, I don't really know, but I know there are a lot of people from our stake that are going."
What Steurer does know for sure is that he's got quite a few children signed up to ride with their families on the five buses that are reserved to carry Romney supporters from Iowa City to Ames. One family alone is bringing five kids. And Steurer has prepared accordingly. "We've got snacks, games, crosswords, coloring books," he said. "As long as we keep them entertained, it will be memorable affair. "
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