In Mitt Romney's methodical quest to pick up delegates from all corners of the Republican map, the South Pacific island of American Samoa, whose Republicans gather to caucus votes next Tuesday, could be an obscure gold mine for him.
That's because the U.S. territory — which carries nine primary delegates despite not having a vote in Congress — is more than 25 percent Mormon.
In fact, there are more Latter-Day Saints per capita in American Samoa than almost any other country or territory in the world, according to statistics published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
It may be a little-known piece of trivia outside the Church, but it seems clear the Romney campaign has connected the dots. At a strategy briefing earlier this week in Boston, an aide specifically cited the South Pacific as a place where they expected their candidate to perform well.
The Mormon Church first sent missionaries to the region in 1843, just 13 years after it was organized. A century later, LDS chapels dotted the islands, and American Samoa was home to a rapidly expanding congregation — infusing the territory's culture with distinctly Mormon (and American) practices. In 1938, for example, the church organized the island's first Boy Scout troop.
But the cultural exchange has gone both ways over the years. The football program at Brigham Young University, where Romney attended, is famous for recruiting heavily from American Samoa and its surrounding islands. And BYU's Hawaii campus owns the Polynesian Cultural Center, a widely-visited museum/theme park that includes a large Samoan section.
Tuesday's territorial caucus will select select six delegates, who are technically unbound but will likely be picked for their pro-Romney leanings; the other three will be local party officials.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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