Mitt Romney came away with a majority of the delegates awarded last night; in addition to a healthy enough minority of the vote to keep the delegate count relatively close in Alabama and Mississippi, he scored decisive victories in Hawaii and American Samoa. While much attention has been paid to Romney’s faith presenting an obstacle among evangelical voters, especially in the Deep South, it’s worth noting that Mormonism was an asset in the Pacific last night.
American Samoa is more than 25% Mormon, and the 70 participants in the caucus there may have been all Mormon — they gave Romney a unanimous victory (note that local elections are non-partisan, so very few Samoans bother to register as Republicans). Hawaii is home to Brigham Young University-Hawaii, sister school to BYU-Idaho and the original BYU in Utah; by some reports, about 1000 people caucused in the heavily Mormon town of Laie, where BYU-Hawaii is located. In a race with fewer than 9400 caucus-goers, that did a lot to pad out Romney’s margin of victory (and his delegate haul).
On Monday, John G. Turner (author of a forthcoming Brigham Young biography) made this point in an LA Times op-ed: Romney’s religion cuts both ways. In addition to correctly predicting that “Hawaii’s large Mormon population (5%) will probably help him salvage a victory,” Turner argues that Mormonism might also be a net positive in California.