GOP candidates skip Utah

By By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

Utah Democrats have been showered with visits from their party’s presidential candidates or their surrogates, but Republican candidates have largely skipped the state.

Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic candidate Barack Obama, visited Utah on Monday, and Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser Susan Rice visited the U on Friday. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, visited last week and the candidate’s husband, former president Bill Clinton, came in November. Barack Obama also made a Park City campaign stop in July.

Jeremy Strand, chairman of the U’s chapter of the College Republicans, said he suspects Republican candidates have not visited Utah because the state has a low number of delegates and many Utahns share a common faith with candidate Mitt Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“There are bigger fish to fry in other states as far as votes go,” said Strand, a freshman in political science and mass communication. “It’s also pretty obvious having an LDS majority. (Utahns) would vote for Mitt, who’s LDS, so it’s easily predictable who will win Utah.”

Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said it’s not Romney’s religion that draws so much support in Utah, but rather his work leading the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. With such overwhelming support, Jowers said Utah is simply not competitive enough to get the attention of Republican candidates.

“A lot of Utahns feel indebted to Romney because of what he was able to accomplish as head of the Salt Lake Olympics so people have felt gratitude and invested in Romney’s campaign,” said Jowers, a Romney supporter. “Typically, high-profile endorsements like the attorney general’s and the governor’s would have a large impact, but because Romney is so well-known and so popular here in Utah, those endorsements appear to have been non-factors.”

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff have both endorsed Republican candidate John McCain.

McCain spoke at the Utah Republican Convention in 2006 and came for a fundraiser early last year. Jowers said Rudolph Giuliani and Ron Paul both visited the state last year for fundraising events.

Marianne Smoot, a sophomore in mass communication and political science, said Mitt Romney visited the state for Saturday’s funeral of former LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, but he did not campaign.

“I know Utah has been a great support to him, and (Romney) has a few offices in Salt Lake and Provo,” Smoot said.

Smoot also pointed out that Josh Romney, one of Mitt Romney’s five sons and a Utah resident, visited the U last November to speak about his father and that Josh Romney was at a Romney call center last night encouraging people to vote for his father.

Ultimately, Jowers said Utah is hotly contested and has been a state “up for grabs” for the Democrats and would have been one as well for the Republicans had it not been for Utah’s “own favorite son” Mitt Romney.

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