The result: Trump is facing an organizational disadvantage compared to previous GOP candidates, as well as an enthusiasm gap with an important GOP constituency in a key swing state.
“Usually our people are very involved in being engaged, trying to get other people engaged,” said Cory Christensen, a GOP operative active in the LDS community, who hasn’t decided yet whether to support Trump. “Some very significant, key people that are seen as political leaders—that aren’t elected officials but everybody knows they are involved, and look to them for advice—those people are not making the calls, doing the work, selling people on the fact that they need to be with him. That’s where the big impact would be felt.”
Mormons comprise only around 4 percent of the state’s population, according to a 2014 Pew study, but there’s a significant LDS concentration in Clark County, Nevada’s population hub. Many of the most prominent Republican leaders in the state, including Sen. Dean Heller and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, are Mormon, and the LDS community typically has considerable reach in driving overall Republican turnout, operatives on the ground say.
“That is an essential part of the Republican coalition in Nevada, and Republicans don’t win without enthusiastic support from the LDS community in Nevada,” said a Nevada conservative leader who is not affiliated with the LDS church. “If he is unable to engender the kind of enthusiasm he needs from that community, he’s not going to win. You need that infrastructure. You need those folks out there actively excited about it as well.”