Reid.jpgFor months and months, Harry Reid seemed about as likely to be reelected to the Senate as the Orioles are to win the American League East. But a new poll now shows him leading all three of his main Republican rivals. What gives?

As the folks over at TPM point out, the GOP candidates have done an excellent job of knocking each other down. But there may be a bit of a hidden religious factor at work as well. At the Mormon History Association meetings in Kansas City last weekend, the word was that the leadership of the LDS Church was putting out quiet signals that it would be a good thing if Reid retained his seat. No Mormon has ever held a higher position of authority, and even if virtually all of the church’s general authorities (as they’re called) are Republicans, keeping a Mormon Democrat as Senate Majority Leader is preferable to having him replaced with a first-term Republican.

None of the three leading Republicans are Mormons, and though a latecomer to the field, Chad Christensen, has been playing the LDS card for all it’s worth, he’s not given much of a chance. Anecdotally, Reid–who is an active and enthusiastic member of the church–seems to enjoy considerable LDS support.

How much of a difference does the LDS vote make in the Silver State? According
to the 2008 Trinity ARIS, Mormons constitute only 5.2 percent of the population. (Thanks to emigration from
California, that’s down from 9 percent a decade ago.)
Still, in a close election, a few percentage points matter, and turnout among Mormons is always high. 

Mitt Romney scored a huge and unexpected victory In the January 2008 Republican
, racking up over 50 percent of the vote to Ron Paul’s 14 percent and John McCain’s 13 percent. Later that year, Obama beat John McCain handily, 55-43. With the quiet blessing of Salt Lake City, I wouldn’t count Harry Reid out this year. 

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