Nevada caucuses: Mitt Romney banks on Mormon vote

Mitt Romney's strength in Nevada is due in large part to the power of the state's sizable Mormon population.

In 2008, Romney won more than 50% of the caucus vote in Nevada, easily defeating second-place finisher Ron Paul, eventual GOP nominee John McCain and four other Republican hopefuls. It was one of 11 states he won before conceding.

Mormons make up about 7% of Nevada's population. But entrance polls conducted before the vote showed that Mormons made up 26% of the total Republican turnout. Romney won 95% of their votes.

Romney's faith was thought to be a potential liability in more socially conservative states. A pastor backing then-candidate Rick Perry caused a stir last fall by stating his view that Mormonism is a "cult" -- one he said was shared by many other evangelicals.

In South Carolina's primary, evangelicals and born-again Christians made up nearly two-thirds of the electorate; Newt Gingrich won 45% of them, while Romney won 21% -- about even with Rick Santorum.

The 2008 Nevada entrance poll showed Romney largely won across the board, losing only those who said they had no religion and who were self-identified independents. Both groups went for Ron Paul, though neither represented significant shares of the vote.

Self-identified "very conservative" voters made up 40% of the turnout, and 57% went for Romney, well ahead of Fred Thompson's 12%.

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