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Surprise! Romney Is Not the First Mormon to Run for President

By Edited Aug 8, 2016 1 0
Five Mormons have run for President in the past. Do you know who they are?(47280)
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He's actually the fifth! Can you name the other four?

The 2012 elections are fast approaching, and among the Republican party hopefuls is former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.  Romney is well-known for being a conservative governor of one of the most liberal states in the country, rescuer of the 2oo2 Olympics, and for being the founder of Bain Capital, a company that has founded, funded, or owned companies such as Dominos Pizza, Burger King,  Staples, and Brookstone.  Mitt Romney is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are commonly called Mormons,  but is hardly the first Mormon to run for President. He is actually the fifth!

The most recent presidential run by a Latter-day Saint was in the 2000 elections, when Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah challenged George W. Bush for the Republican nomination.  Hatch, a Republican who has been in the U.S. Senate for over 35 years, was born in Pennsylvania to Mormon parents from Utah.  His ancestors were Mormon pioneers who lived in Nauvoo, IL in the 1840s, a Mormon enclave that rivaled Chicago in population until the Mormons were forced to leave and follow Brigham Young west to Utah.

The third Mormon to make a run for the presidency was Congressman Morris "Mo" Udall, of Arizona.  Udall got his start as a professional basketball player, ran as a Democrat and was elected to Congress in 1961, and served as a Representative for thirty years.  He was well-known for his  liberal views, which set him apart from many of his fellow Mormons, and his sense of humor.   In the Democrat primaries of 1976, Udall ran against a relatively unknown peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter, and came so close to winning, some newspapers reported erroneously that he had won.   His autobiography, published in 1987, was entitled, "Too Funny to Be President."

If you know much at all about Mitt Romney, then you probably know that the second Mormon to run for President was George Romney, Mitt's father.  George ran for President in 1968, after serving as Governor of Michigan from 1962 to 1968.  Prior to that, he was Chairman and CEO of American Motors Corp.  His presidential ambitions were dashed when he asserted in an interview that he'd been misled by officials about the Vietnam War.  Unfortunately, instead of using the word "misled," he claimed he'd been "brainwashed," and the resulting newspaper headlines ridiculing his poor choice of words ended his campaign.  His teenage son, Mitt, who was working on his campaign at the time, learned a valuable lesson from the experience:  Think, then speak.

The first Mormon to become a candidate for the presidency was, in fact, the first Mormon.  Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, became a candidate for President in the early part of 1844.  At the time, he was simultaneously the Mayor of Nauvoo, IL, commander of the Nauvoo Legion (a large Mormon militia), and leader of the fast-growing church.  He decided to run in order to call attention to the persecution of the Mormons, which culminated in an "extermination order" being issued by the Governor of Illinois, and the murder of Joseph Smith by a mob while he was being held prisoner at Carthage jail.  Little known fact:  The assassination of Joseph Smith was, in fact, historically the first successful conspiracy to kill an American presidential candidate.

In 2008, Gov. Mitt Romney became the fifth Mormon to vie for the chance to become the leader of the free world.  That unsuccessful campaign laid the groundwork for his current effort, and many political analysts now consider Romney the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2012.  Many still wonder, however, whether Romney's religion be the key factor that prevents him from winning the White House.   Sen. Ted Kennedy offered this poignant answer in 2005, when he said,  “The answer is no. We’ve moved on. That died with my brother Jack.”

Erroneous newspaper declares Jimmy Carter loser in Wisconsin Primary
Credit: (UPI Photo)


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