BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
No matter how many gaffes Mitt Romney and his advisors commit during their current European trip, and despite not having much love for the Republican Party's presumptive presidential candidate, conservative Christian evangelicals will turn out in November in droves to vote against President Barack Obama. A question I raised in an April piece for BuzzFlash, titled "Will They or Won't They? Romney and the Evangelicals," was: Will conservative Christian activists became active member of Romney's electoral army? My answer at the time was that he might not need them.
I concluded the piece with this observation: "Picture this: Come August, cities and towns across the state of Utah begin to resemble ghost towns, as armies of Mormons spread out across the swing states to work for Romney."
I am now forced to publicly admit that my concluding comment was wrong on at least two counts: 1) Many members of Utah's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly called "Mormons") community have not waited for August to get involved with the Romney campaign; and, 2) Utahans do not have to leave the state in order to serve.
According to a recent report in The Salt Lake City Tribune, "In a sparsely decorated office next to Utah Valley University student housing, a call center has sprung up where devoted Mitt Romney supporters pound the phones, calling battleground states to drum up support for their candidate.
The operation gives the Romney faithful in Utah an electoral outlet for their enthusiasm, letting them play a part in who wins the White House - even though they live in a red state that is a million metaphorical miles from the contested battlegrounds."
"For us, the biggest thing is that technology today and the organization of the Romney campaign allow us to be right in the thick of battleground states," said Thomas Wright, chairman of the Utah Republican Party. "And Mitt is relying on Utah Republicans to deliver the Intermountain West and [help him become] the next president of the United States."
The phone banks are part of the Utah Republican Party Victory Campaign "aimed at letting Beehive State party members project their influence into the key swing states such as Nevada and Colorado." The paper also reported that, "Utah Republicans caravanned to Mesquite, Nev., to make phone calls, knock on doors and canvass neighborhoods for the Romney campaign."
Interestingly enough, while The Salt Lake City Tribune report doesn't mention how many of the phone bank volunteers are Mormons or what kind of support Team Romney is receiving from the organized Mormon Church, it should be noted that the population of Utah is over 2.7 million, of which more than 1.8 million are baptized Mormons.
According to Religion Dispatches Joanna Brooks, the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith, it "looks like at least a few of Romney's Utah supporters are using LDS congregational email lists to drum up donations - despite explicit instructions not to do so from LDS Church Headquarters."
Brooks recently pointed out that, "We know that the Romney campaign is mobilizing Mormon family and friend connections for fundraising, as the New York Times and others have reported." Brooks also noted that "Leaked emails from the 2008 and 2012 campaigns have also revealed ranking Church leaders are active, albeit as private citizens, in supporting their fellow Latter-day Saint. And some Romney supporters are using congregational email lists - which, fairness should note, get mobilized without authorization in the service of all sorts of purposes, including multilevel marketing schemes."
It should also be noted that not all Mormons are Romney supporters. Earlier this month, ABC News reported that "a small group of Seattle-based bloggers" has formed a group called Mormons for Obama. "The blog was created in January of this year and has sold about 500 ‘I'm voting for Obama and I'm a Mormon' bumper stickers."