Opinion: Romney's recent Utah move seems less indicative of a 2016 run

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SALT LAKE CITY — While gossip provides fascinating water-cooler conversation, where you put your money usually reveals more about your priorities than idle chatter.

In the case of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, this adage seems especially pertinent now considering that Romney’s permanent locale has changed from Belmont, Massachusetts, to Holladay, Utah.

This tidbit offers more insight into Romney’s intentions than any Sunday talk show roundtable. In fact, this geographical move may reveal more about a third run in 2016 for the two-time presidential hopeful than any “educated guessing” or “unnamed source” speculation that talking heads offer.

Romney staging a presidential campaign from Utah makes little electoral sense. In a state that identifies itself as 60 percent Mormon, while also considering that most individuals are just starting to become familiar with the religion, Romney designating Utah as his permanent home isn’t very strategic. Although Mormons believe that acceptance of Mormonism is on the rise, according to a 2012 Pew Research study, a presidential campaign from the perceived center of Mormonism focuses more attention on an already touchy subject for Romney and for other LDS politicians as well. Hopes of smoothing over potential differences between evangelical Christians and candidate Romney are more difficult if Salt Lake City is campaign central.

Regardless of the public’s perception of Mormons and/or Utah, given Romney’s reticence in discussing Mormonism throughout both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, a move to Utah would bring the “Mormon topic” even more to the forefront. In fact, just a day before 2012 election day a video was released containing footage from the radio talk show WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. It echoes similar sentiments as Romney states in the segment, “I’m not running as a Mormon,” and, “I get a little tired of coming on a show like yours and having it [be] all about Mormons.”

A Utah-based run might reinforce a Democratic campaign narrative, however unfair, of an insular, white, male clique dominating the right. Strategists know a broader Republican/Independent/Libertarian coalition is a necessary component for Republicans to have a chance at a White House win.

The fact that Utah is squarely in the “red state” tally offers no assistance to the electoral math, either.

Toying with a 2016 Romney run isn’t a ridiculous notion, though, given Romney’s vague verbiage concerning the topic, including his recent comments in the New York Times: “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race,” he's quoted as saying, and, “We’ll see what happens.” When you add the recent Utah move into the will-he-or-won’t-he tally sheet, the the odds don’t seem to be favorable for Romney in 2016.

Of course, the possibility still exists that Romney would change his mind, move his permanent residence from Utah, and take up abode in his old stomping grounds of Belmont. However, evidence seems to indicate the contrary.

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Sara Jarman


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