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Mike Leavitt to plan for a Romney presidency

Published June 4, 2012 11:15 am

Politics • Former Utah governor now has an office in candidate's Boston headquarters.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has asked a seasoned Washington veteran to quietly draft a plan for their man to assume power, that is, if he wins in November, of course.

You may have heard of him, his name is Mike Leavitt.

"Governor Romney has asked Governor Leavitt to lead the Readiness Project," said Sarah Pompei, a Romney spokeswoman, referencing what the campaign has called its transition planning. "This is exactly what the bipartisan legislation signed into law by President [Barack] Obama in 2010 encouraged candidates to do."

With only 75 days between Election Night and Inauguration Day, it's commonplace for candidates to start planning early, and that 2010 law encourages candidates to do so to ensure continuity in government. But candidates don't like to draw too much attention to the effort for fear people see it as overconfidence.

"The most important thing is to let the campaign be the focus of the attention and for us to very quietly do what needs to be done," Leavitt told Politico, which first reported the story.

Leavitt has been traveling with Romney, a fellow Mormon, and acting as a surrogate in states such as Nevada. The two became close in the lead-up to the Salt Lake Winter Olympics in 2002, when Leavitt was governor and Romney ran the planning of the Games.

When contacted by The Salt Lake Tribune, Leavitt declined to comment.

The three-term Utah governor left office early in 2003 to lead the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush and later to become Bush's Health and Human Services secretary.

Since the end of the Bush administration, Leavitt has created his own health care consulting firm, Leavitt Partners, which has worked with major companies seeking help with federal regulations and more recently with states, such as New Mexico, trying to set up a health care exchange as required under the nation's new health reform law.

While like Romney, Leavitt wants to see parts of the law, widely dubbed "Obamacare," removed, he supports the idea of an online portal allowing consumers to shop for insurance plans. Massachusetts, where Romney was governor, and Utah were the first two states to establish exchanges.

According to Politico, Leavitt now has an office in Romney's Boston headquarters and sits in major planning meetings, though he engages sparingly. There has even been talk that Leavitt could have a prime staff position in a Romney administration.

mcanham@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mattcanham