Yesterday, 2012 presidential contender Mitt Romney participated in a town hall-style teleconference call in support of Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle, a move some observers believe was designed to overcome concerns among Mormons (who make up 7% of Nevada’s population) about comments by Angle’s pastor deriding the LDS Church as a “kooky” “cult.”
More likely, it’s a move by Romney to appear relevant in the context of a Tea Party-infused, mortgage-meltdown-fueled voter backlash in Nevada.
Nevada is about as volatile a place as you’ll find in the American West right now. It has the highest rate of mortgage foreclosures, mortgage fraud, unemployment, and bankruptcy in the nation. Over the last two decades, more than 1.4 million people moved to Nevada in search of cheap housing and boom-time fueled hospitality, tourism, and construction jobs, more than doubling the state’s population. Now, those speculation-and-spending fueled good times are gone.
That volatility does not treat mild-mannered Mormon politicians well: be they Reids, or Romneys.
Just last week, Jan Shipps, a longtime scholar and canny observer of Mormon experience, wagered that Angle would beat Romney if he were on the ticket.
I think she’s right. What’s happening in Nevada is the ugly down side of a speculation-and-spending fueled boom cycle, with many voters looking for a politician who will mirror their own feelings of fear and resentment. How ugly is it getting? Check out Sharron Angle’s latest television ads which depict Reid as the ally of scowling, bandana-browed Latino gangstas and Angle as the ally of white schoolchildren and college graduates—an open appeal to the racist us-vs.-them sentiment that always surges during economic downtimes.
It will not bode well for Mr. Romney if voter sentiments don’t simmer down before the Republican presidential primaries.