Today, Donald Trump was hit by stinging criticism from two sources. First, incoming Utah Senator Mitt Romney published an op-ed in the Washington Post in which he criticizes President Trump, saying that “the President has not risen to the mantle of the office.” President Trump has already responded over Twitter to Senator-elect Romney (who is also the former Governor of Massachusetts and 2012 Republican nominee for President) – this is not the first time the two have publicly clashed during their complicated history. Trump’s reply references retiring Senator Jeff Flake, who has been a thorn in the administration’s side and who publicized Romney’s op-ed on Flake’s own Twitter page.
Not to be outdone, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had even harsher words for the President in the New York Times Magazine, where he describes Trump as a liar and cheater who is, according to Reid, “without question the worst president we’ve ever had,” Beyond their histories as prominent leaders of their parties and oftentimes critics of Donald Trump, Romney, Reid and Flake (the name would make a catchy law firm) also share the distinction of being three of the country’s most prominent Mormon politicians.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose members are generally known as Mormons, are prominent in Utah and Nevada and have generally been solid Republican Party supporters due to their conservative beliefs on issues such as homosexuality and same-sex marriage. While that support remains strong for the Republican Party in general, Mormon support for Donald Trump appears to be shakier: nationwide, there’s a ten point gap (67% vs 56%) between Mormon support for the Republican Party and Donald Trump (that gap is 20% in Utah, where most voters support their new Senator Romney challenging the President).
Even during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump had an identified Mormon problem, although he ultimately ended up winning both Utah and Nevada, but won less than half the votes in the former, where Mormon third-party candidate Evan McMullin won over 20% of the vote. While other religious conservatives, most notably Evangelicals, have embraced Trump despite his many personal failings due to his policies, most notably appointing conservative justices and judges, Mormons have generally held their politicians to high personal moral standards, and are less willing to make exceptions for Donald Trump.
As the states above show, of course, over half of Mormon’s do support President Trump, and that is reflected among top Mormon politicians as well. While Romney, Reid and Flake have been strong critics of the President, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has praised Trump on multiple occasions (although he has had to walk back the extent to which he has sidestepped Trump’s failings and potential wrongdoings). Overall though, as both Trump and the Republican Party face increasing challenge in Utah (where Democrat Ben McAdams narrowly defeated incumbent Mia Love to flit one of the state’s four House seats away from the Republican Party) and Nevada (where Democrats currently hold three of the state’s four House seats and one of its two Senate positions), Trump’s “Mormon problem” may continue to get worse.