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UT: Mitt Romney's Sure Thing

By Josh White
Republicans who aren't named Mitt Romney have largely thrown in the towel in Utah, a state that has long been considered a lock for the Brigham Young University valedictorian who is also Mormon.

Romney's ties to Utah also extend to his tenure as the CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and Utah residents have continued to embrace him. A Deseret Morning News poll in October had Romney ahead of the pack with 65 percent to John McCain's 6 percent in the race for Utah's 36 Republican delegates. The winner takes all of them.

Gov. John Huntsman Jr. has been an ardent supporter of McCain, but McCain's Republican colleagues from Utah, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, both have endorsed Romney.

For the Democrats, Utah has turned into an interesting battleground, where previously non-existent advertising has exploded in recent weeks. Chelsea Clinton made a recent appearance and Michelle Obama addressed a crowd at the Salt Palace Convention Center on Monday, a day ahead of the primary for Utah's 29 democratic delegates.

"For the first time for us, we're actually in the game," said Joe Demma, chief of staff for the Lt. Governor's office, which runs elections in Utah.

Utah allows voting in both primaries for a total of 15 days, and Demma said early numbers so far "are disappointing" with about 85,000 votes already cast. Still, elections officials expect to double the turnout of about 10 percent in 2000.

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 4, 2008; 9:24 PM ET
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