Was there any doubt? Romney wins blowout in Utah GOP primary
De facto Republican nominee captures more than 93 percent of vote in early returns.
Published: June 26, 2012 08:58PM
Updated: June 27, 2012 12:27AM
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at Carter Machinery Company, Inc., in Salem, Va., Tuesday, June 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

There will be no recount needed.

Mitt Romney, the de facto Republican presidential nominee, shocked nobody Tuesday, cruising toward a dominant win, capturing more than 93 percent of the vote.

“Tonight Utah voters echoed what the rest of the country is thinking: They are tired of waiting for President Obama to deliver on the promises he made during the 2008 campaign, and they are eager for a new leader to get America working again,” said Allie Brandenburger, a Romney campaign spokeswoman.

The Romney victory in Utah’s last-in-the-nation primary was emphatic but meaningless for the candidate who had driven his opposition from the race and locked up the party’s nomination a month ago.

It has long been acknowledged that Romney would coast to a win in Utah, barring some sort of bear attack or zombie apocalypse.

“It confirms what has been expected for months,” said Tim Chambless, a political science professor with the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. “We haven’t had, in my 40 years of watching Utah politics, someone with that type of name identification and approval rating.”

Romney was campaigning in the battleground state of Virginia on Tuesday and barely campaigned in Utah, speaking at a rally at a Salt Lake City burger joint last year and particpating in the 10th anniversary of the Salt Lake Olympics earlier this year.

But the only other GOP candidate on the ballot to campaign in Utah was Fred Karger, an openly gay Californian who has blasted the LDS Church for its role in the efforts to ban gay marriage.

Romney was CEO of Salt Lake’s Olympic Committee and formerly owned a lavish home in Deer Valley. Those Utah ties, coupled with the fact that he is the first member of the state’s predominant LDS faith to win a major party’s presidential nomination, have propelled Romney’s astronomical support among Utah Republicans.

“Voters in Utah have seen first-hand the leadership qualities Governor Romney displayed in turning around the Olympics, and they are confident he will put forward common-sense reforms to get our country back on track,” Brandenburger said.

Utah’s primary outcome was never really in doubt. Romney won the state with nearly 90 percent of the Republican vote in 2008.

Early on in the nominating contest, Romney’s campaign tried to get Utah’s primary moved up in the election cycle, where it could build momentum for the candidate, but Utah lawmakers were unwilling to pick up the costs for holding an additional election.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman had jumped into the presidential fray last year, but his candidacy never got traction and polls showed he would have been beaten by Romney in the Beehive State. Huntsman did not file to appear on the GOP primary ballot.

Utah is probably the safest Romney state in November as well. A new poll by Key Research and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University shows that 76 percent of all Utahns have a favorable opinion of Romney.

And 74 percent of Utahns disapprove of the job President Barack Obama has done — 60 percent of them strongly disapproving.

What remains to be seen is whether Romney will have coattails in November, boosting the fortunes of Utah Republicans further down the ballot.

“It has an immeasurable ripple effect on other candidates, all the way down the ballot,” Chambless said. “But we won’t know until the night of November 6 what effect.”

gehrke@sltrib.com Twitter: @RobertGehrke