Op-Ed: Are Mormons Keeping Mitt Romney Afloat?

His victories in the Pacific Islands and American West come show the power of a strong minority to boost a weak candidate in low turn-out contests.

There are six kids in white shirts and black ties standing in a line. One steps forward and dances around the others, hissing and sneering like a bobcat. He moves to the front on the chorus and the boys start slapping their thighs in a steady one-two-three, one-two-three rhythm.

The leader cries, "Grab the book from your pants!" They pull out a black book -- one-two-three. "Slap the book on your chest!" They slap away -- one-two-three. "Read the book, read the book, pray, pray!" One-two-three. "We've got the gospel, you get it, you get it?" Then they step towards the camera and wave their hands. "You come walk in the waters with meeee!" The boys fall to the floor in a fit of giggles. It's one of the odder sights on YouTube.

The book is The Book of Mormon and the boys are young missionaries. They are dancing a Mormon-themed version of the Maori war dance, or Haka -- just one of the many Mormon Haka videos posted on YouTube (if you want to see the dance done with real force, check out this version by by Mormons Elders Hopoate and Ofahulu in Australia.) This extraordinary cross-fertilization of Mormonism and Polynesian culture is quite common. It's a testament to the broad and growing reach of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- and hints at the political power of the Mormon diaspora.

In a primary season as competitive as 2012, every delegate counts. For that reason, the votes of Republican Pacific islanders living in American territories and Hawaii have gained an unusual degree of importance. Last Saturday, beleaguered front-runner Mitt Romney won GOP caucuses in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. On Tuesday he scooped victories in American Samoa and Hawaii. Together, these islands have given him at least 36 delegates -- a small number, perhaps, but one more hard-earned step towards the nomination. He came in third in the American deep South last night, but he still was the day's delegate winner, thanks to the island caucuses.

(Timothy Stanley is a history fellow at Oxford University and at work on a biography of Pat Buchanan.)


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