Anytime Mitt Romney campaigns in Idaho, people will talk conspiratorially about the Mormon Vote. Politicians here never take Mormon support lightly, but when the former Massachusetts governor parachuted in to campaign for Republican Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Wednesday, the influential religion was thrust front and center.
Idaho is 23 percent Mormon and, after Utah, home to the nation's second-highest number of LDS (Church of Latter-day Saints) members. Romney, the former-and-likely-future presidential candidate, is arguably the second-most-recognizable Mormon in America (Glenn Beck was a late-life convert), and is a reliable image booster for any struggling Idaho candidate.
Not that Gov. Otter is struggling -- the former U.S. congressman has a 16-point lead over his challenger, Democrat Keith Allred. But Allred is an LDS church member, and Otter, critically, is not. (He is a practicing Catholic.) When a late-September poll showed that Otter's lead in eastern Idaho had shrunk to just six points, area newspapers were quick to decode the meaning.