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All politics is local, even the US election as seen by Kenyans

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Michael Reynolds/AP

(Read caption) President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney meet family members after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla.

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Kenyans are closely watching the US presidential election, with two groups in particular rooting for each of the candidates. 

US President Barack Obama’s reelection bid is preoccupying the people in Nyang’oma Kogelo, his Kenyan father’s home village, as challenger Mitt Romney’s run is invigorating Mormons in the East African country.

Mr. Romney’s candidatcy has thrust the Christian group into the spotlight here, with its leaders on Monday unveiling a website called Kenya Mormon Newsroom to help answer questions ignited by the American political process. Leaders say the church maintains a firm political neutrality.

“In the most recent past, questions have been asked about who we are. The reasons is we have a member of the church running as president of the United State of America,” said Elder Hesbon Usi, an official here with the Mormons' Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “Since people do not have the right source of information and truth they are looking for, a lot tend to go to other websites that are misleading. They get information that is not correct.”

Elder Thomas Hatch, a former Utah state senator who now serves as the church’s deputy director of public affairs for the region, said questions the church has encountered have prompted leaders to share more through a network of websites.

Hatch says Mormons would relish the idea of a Romney presidency, hoping it would bring the church out of obscurity. However, he cautioned that there could be many downsides as well as upsides, since presidents have to make tough decisions.

 “If Mr. Romney is seen as a Mormon president, there could be retaliation by other countries against our church and missions,” he says.

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