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(Leah Hogsten | Tribune file photo) In this archive photo, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney makes a public appearance with his wife, Ann, at the Hires Big H Drive-in in Salt Lake City.
Romney bests Huntsman 4-1 in Utah fundraising
Politics » Beehive State a reliable ATM for GOP front-runner.
First Published Feb 01 2012 11:32 am • Last Updated Feb 01 2012 11:37 pm

Washington • Even before former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman dropped out of the presidential race, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney was crushing him in fundraising, especially in Huntsman’s home state.

During the last three months of 2011, Romney raised more than four times Huntsman’s cash haul in the Beehive State, bringing in $410,000 to Huntsman’s $97,000, according to new finance reports.

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Overall, Romney pulled $2.3 million out of Utah last year, while Huntsman, who withdrew from the presidential race on Jan. 14, collected $374,000, reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show.

Kelly Patterson, a Brigham Young University political scientist, says Romney is able to tap Utah for so much support because residents feel a deep connection to the candidate, be it through sharing the Mormon faith or his leadership of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Romney, who raked in $5.5 million from the state in his 2008 bid, is continuing to draw on that support.

"The added bonus this time around is that he really is seen as the front-runner," Patterson says. "He’s had the chance to build up his network and build up his pitch."

Romney continues to trounce other candidates in fundraising from Utah, where a majority of residents share his Mormon faith. Romney won 90 percent of Utah Republican primary votes in 2008 and polls show him far ahead of any rivals — and President Barack Obama — in the state.

Obama, however, still has many Utah fans and pulled $72,000 in donations from them during the last quarter of 2011.

Overall, the president has raised $334,182 from Utah so far this election cycle.

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Tony Semerad contributed to this story

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