At age eight, Marco Rubio was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; a fact he reminds LDS Republican voters.
Mormons makes up 1.7 percent of the U.S. population and 65 percent of them identify with the Republican Party, according to the Pew Research Center. With the Republican nomination drawing near, Rubio is subtly leveraging his LDS background to build support from the Mormon population, especially in important caucus states like Nevada.
In his autobiography, “An American Son” (2012), the Florida Republican presidential nominee addresses the three years he spent as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and thanks the LDS church for helping his family when they moved from Miami to Las Vegas.
“The Mormon church provided the sound moral structure my mother had wanted for us, and a circle of friends from stable, God-fearing families,” Rubio writes in his book. “When we left the church a few years later, mostly at my instigation, we did so with gratitude for its considerable contribution to our happiness in those years.”
Recently on the campaign trail, Rubio has held meetings and private meet-and-greets with prominent political leaders, who are of the LDS faith, such as Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison.
Hutchison hosted a backyard event at his Las Vegas home in July, as Rubio’s state chairman. The event was attended by state legislators, activists and political operatives — including Mormon members.
At the gathering, Rubio addressed his candidacy goals and explained his history with Las Vegas while standing on Hutchison’s basketball court, which features the BYU logo.
However, Rubio did not to mention his LDS baptism, according to Politico.
“It would’ve been a misstep if he had done that; too obvious,” Nevada Assemblyman Erven Nelson, a Mormon who supports Rubio, said at a media event.
Rubio’s ability to win over LDS voters could go a long way in the West, where Mormons represent roughly a quarter of caucus-goers, according to 2012 entrance polls.
“To me, if he still had the same morals and beliefs, that would effect my likeliness to vote for him,” said psychology student Bryce Hessing, 28, Meridian, Idaho. “But what he did in the past does not necessarily reflect who he is now. I think what should be really considered is his current actions and plans.”
Rubio currently identifies himself as a Catholic but has not been removed from LDS church records.