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SALT LAKE CITY -- GOP presidential candidates are getting ready for the Iowa Caucus on Jan. 3. Two men with Utah ties have been a big part of the wide-open race for the GOP nomination. KSL is taking a look back at the impact made by Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman on the campaign trail.
Speculation about a possible run at the White House by former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman began in late January when he stepped down as the U.S. Ambassador to China. Hinckley Institute of Politics Director Kirk Jowers said it would be an interesting dance between Huntsman and whoever else entered.
"There are perceived flaws in all of the candidates and, if he doesn't get in now, how far in the future does that preclude him from running again?" Jowers said.
Americans are experiencing ... something that is totally alien to them; a sense that the deck is stacked against them.
Huntsman made it official in June, using the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop for his announcement. There, he said, "Today, Americans are experiencing, through no fault of their own, something that is totally alien to them; a sense that the deck is stacked against them."
During the debates, Huntsman was praised for his performances. He got a lot of attention when he compared former candidate Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax policy to a promotion for a pizza.
"I think it's a catchy phrase," Huntsman said. "In fact, I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard it."
But, the former Utah governor never seemed to gain real traction in the polls, unlike former Massachusetts governor and Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee CEO Mitt Romney, who has consistently been at or near the top of the polls among GOP contenders.
Romney made his run official at a farm in New Hampshire. Both he and Huntsman made stops in Utah. During a stop at Hire's Big H in Salt Lake City, Romney said, "We elected [President Obama] based, in part, of the vision that he described. Now, three years later, we don't have to just talk about a vision. We can talk about what he's done, and he's failed the American people."
We don't have to just talk about a vision. We can talk about what (Pres. Obama) has done, and he's failed the American people.
Of course, when people talk about Romney or Huntsman, their Mormon faith becomes part of the discussion. Robert Jeffress, the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church and a supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry said, "The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult."
Jeffress touched off a firestorm of debate after saying Republicans shouldn't vote for Romney because of his religion.
"I think Mitt Romney is a good, moral man. But, I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney," Jeffress said.
Perry refuted Jeffress' statements by saying he doesn't think Mormonism is a cult.
As for who Utahns support, a poll back in February showed more people in the Beehive state would vote for Romney over Huntsman.