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More Utah political insiders see Huntsman running in 2016 than Romney

By Lisa Riley Roche | Posted - May 11, 2014 at 7:17 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah political insiders see a chance that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. will run again for president in 2016 but are much less sure about Mitt Romney, despite a new effort to draft him into a third try for the White House.

The latest Utah Insider Survey found that 42 percent of GOP insiders said there's no chance Romney will run while only 16 percent said Huntsman will definitely stay out of the race.

Democratic insiders felt a Romney run was even less likely, with 56 percent agreeing the GOP's 2012 nominee was done being a presidential candidate. But just 10 percent of Democrats said there was no chance of a Huntsman bid.

The results of the survey of lawmakers, lobbyists and activists follows reports that state GOP Chairman James Evans is helping to put together a "Draft Mitt" organization and that Huntsman has called himself "open" to another run.

Romney has said repeatedly he has no interest in 2016 after losing the GOP nomination to Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008 and the presidential election to President Barack Obama in 2012.

However, Huntsman has hinted at taking another shot after dropping out of the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination after a disappointing third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary.

Evans said the survey reflects what the insiders are hearing from the candidates, not the possibility that Romney could be convinced to change his mind if enough conservative voters who sat out 2012 pledge to back him next time.

"You compare Huntsman saying he’s open at this point and Gov. Romney saying, 'Absolutely no,'" the party chairman said. "I think those poll results just confirm what the conventional wisdom is at the moment."

Tim Chambless, academic outreach coordinator for the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said the results weren't a surprise.

Romney has not been acting like a candidate, Chambless said, while Huntsman appears to be positioning himself for a possible run by taking positions with organizations such as the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank.

"I kind of judge people on their behavior," Chambless said.

He said the effort to draft Romney is "wishful thinking on the part of those who believe the third time is the charm."

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