Romney bound to find political success in Utah once again


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SALT LAKE CITY — One place where Mitt Romney can surely be expected to do well in his run for president is Utah. He raised millions of dollars for the 2008 race in the Beehive State and won 90 percent of the vote in the 2008 GOP primary.

He will have no shortage of Utah backers this time, but you'd be hard pressed to find a bigger Mitt backer than Kem Gardner, a prominent Salt Lake developer and longtime friend of Romney's whose office shows off mementos from the Olympics and an autographed photo.

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"The one fact remains that Mitt is the best qualified to be president," Gardner said. "He's the best qualified to create jobs and get the economy back again; and I think people will overlook a lot of things in order to get the economy back."

Romney frequently calls or texts Gardner from the road, often with a humorous sign-off.

"The field has narrowed unexpectedly," Romney wrote. "I've rounded up most all of the fundraising types. Good Start. We're going to win this thing. Best, ‘Mittanopolis.'"

Gardner predicts Romney will win the nomination because he's best prepared to build a fundraising machine to compete nationally.

"First of all, I think it will be an expensive and a long campaign," he said. "I think whoever is in it has got to be in it for the long haul. It'll be ground out state by state by state."

Romney's ties to Utah run deep, coming from a prominent LDS family, having gone to BYU, then successfully running the 2002 Olympics.

Those who saw Romney lead a scandal-mired Olympic effort to success view him as a formidable candidate in 2012.

"Most places that had Olympics lost money, and Mitt really took what was there and made it an event that Utahns are extremely proud of," says political pollster Dan Jones.

"He took our grandest world event and made it superb," said Natalie Gochnour, former spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Leavitt. "He's probably our favorite adopted son because of that good work. And again, I think most of Utah wishes him well."

Romney did have his critics, particularly over the legal fallout of the bribery scandal, though many of those criticisms faded once the Olympic Games proved successful.

"The business principles he put into play in terms of being lean and mean and high quality, I just think he's a phenomenal leader," Gonchour said.

Email: jdaley@ksl.com

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John Daley

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