Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | 12:40 p.m.
Harry Reid might be the Silver State’s most prominent Mormon, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to see a Mormon president just yet -- considering the current options.
But if he had to choose between his fellow church members who are running — Republicans Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman — he’s firmly behind Huntsman, who officially launched his campaign this morning.
“In that race, if I had a choice, I would favor Huntsman over Romney,” Reid told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “But I don’t have a choice in that race.”
As a Democrat, Reid can’t cast a vote in the race. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t political points to be gained by giving Huntsman, the former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China, a sidelong endorsement that may resonate with the Mormons at home.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has been a favorite in Nevada in the past, on the strength and turnout of the Mormon vote. And as the only candidate who kept a skeleton operation in place in Nevada between presidential cycles, he’s poised to win the state again in the February caucuses.
But this is the first year that Nevada’s delegates are not being awarded on a winner-take-all basis, meaning that if Huntsman can make a strong showing, he can split valuable delegates away from Romney.
When asked to explain his preference though, Reid steered clear of critiques that could count as political calculations, and instead delivered a scathing review of Romney’s character.
“The front-runner in the Republican race now, here’s a man who doesn’t know who he is,” Reid said. “He was for gay marriage when he was governor, now he’s against it. He was for abortion when he was governor, now he’s against it. Oh, health care: We modeled our (federal health care reform) bill to be to a large degree about what he did in Massachusetts. Now he’s trying to run from that.
“If someone doesn’t know who they are, they shouldn’t be president of the United States,” Reid said.