Want a Challenge? Try Supporting a Candidate Other Than Mitt Romney at BYU. Just Try It.

By Ruth Olson

It would be stating the obvious to say that Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a lot of support at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. But the former Massachusetts governor isn't the only pol drawing support on the campus of 27,000 full-time undergraduate students, 98 percent of them members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

David Garber, a BYU student from Virginia, recently started a club to promote the candidacy of Republican Ron Paul. The group isn't an official campus club yet, so his activities have been limited. Garber admits it has been somewhat difficult getting started; so far he has half a dozen members in his group. "We're pretty optimistic," says Garber, who believes Paul's policies are a better fit with mainstream Utah values than Romney's.

Lauren Clough, who's heading up a group in support of Democratic candidate Barack Obama, says the school administration has been supportive, but that doesn't always hold true of the students. "It is hard, and it can be frustrating, because people can be mean about it," she says. But then again, she said, she's always liked a challenge.

Darren Jackson, another student from Virginia, is chairperson of the College Democrats, which has about 500 people on its mailing list. He says being non-Republican and non-Romney at BYU is like trying to swim upstream. Even a Democrat like Jackson admits to Romney's appeal among many church members. When the candidate held a fund-raiser nearby, Jackson attended though he didn't change his mind about not supporting Romney. Jackson adds that he doesn't feel bad not supporting Romney since the L.D.S. church takes no position on who its members should support.

It would be naïve to think that religion played no part in Romney's support at BYU, says Matt Waldrip, who helped start the campus chapter of Students for Mitt and is now working for the national Romney campaign. But it's not the whole story, he insists. "I know very few people who support him blindly," says Waldrip, who believes most supporters agree with Romney's policies and believe he would be a good president, regardless of what church he belongs to.