We’ve all heard that Mitt Romney won the Republican fundraising sweepstakes for the first quarter, easily outpacing Rudy Giuliani and leaving John McCain in the dust. Hugh Hewitt (not exactly impartial here) notes that the NYT spent a bit of its account on the Mormon connection. Hewitt compares that story unfavorably to this somewhat puffier NYT piece on Obama’s fundraising. Still, nothing will raise HH’s hackles like this WaPo story on Romney’s "Mormon base." I can’t wait to hear the steam coming from Hugh’s ears.
For what it’s worth, my own view is that there’s nothing sinister or unusual about having a core of supporters that share one’s background. And there’s no evidence of a "Mormon political agenda" that is in any way particularly Mormon. They share their social conservatism with lots of other folks, religious and non-religious. And their social organization doesn’t strike me as all that different from the networks in which others are embedded. In my part of the country, for example, lots of people spend lots of time with folks from their church. If religion as a source of "social [and political] capital" strikes you as somehow sinister, you haven’t been reading the scholars, like Robert Putnam, who identify it as one of the principal pillars of American civil society. Yes, there are other sources of social capital. And yes, people can be embedded in more than one network. Indeed, most people--including Romney, as the NYT article, unlike its WaPo counterpart, demonstrates--are. Unfortunately for Romney, his principal fundraising networks can easily be made to seem sinister (mysterious [heh] Mormons and robber baron capitalists).
I prefer to think of the Romney-Obama contrast as a battle of hotel chains: Marriott vs. Hyatt.