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Romney has several Utah power players in key spots



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It was a friendship born out of neighborly envy.

Miller and Romney owned vacation homes next to each other in the Deer Valley area, and one day, Miller recalls, Romney strolled over to Miller’s house to inquire whether the copper-lined edge on his home kept the ice from building up. They became fast friends.

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Romney sold his Utah home in 2009 but by then had bought an ocean-side mansion in La Jolla, Calif., next door to the Millers.

A successful businessman, Miller — who is also involved in Zwick’s Solamare Capital — has used his ties to help raise cash for Romney. It’s unclear, though, how much Miller has collected since the Romney campaign has refused to release its list of top bundlers.

At a fundraiser this week in Salt Lake City, Miller introduced Romney to a crowd overflowing to the point that many didn’t get the lunch they paid for.

"I decided it was better to sacrifice a few lunches … to put Mitt Romney in the White House," he said.

Miller then asked the crowd to "give the next president of the United States a rousing welcome home," but Romney didn’t emerge. Two more times Miller dropped the line and on the third time, Romney came out to a warm embrace.

It was, however, less awkward than the time Romney seemingly forgot the name of one of his top surrogates, Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Jason Chaffetz • In late May, Romney appeared with Donald Trump at a rally in Las Vegas and proceeded to thank everyone on stage with him, naming Trump, former rival Newt Gingrich, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki.


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"I gotta skip the guy in the center here because I’m not sure who that is," Romney said of Chaffetz.

Romney later said he knew who Chaffetz was, called him a "good friend," and the congressman said it was an inside joke.

In fact, Chaffetz is well-known within the Romney camp and is constantly called upon to serve as a stand-in for the candidate in swing states and on radio and television. In Charlotte, N.C., during the Democratic National Convention, Chaffetz paired up with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to counter the Democrats’ message.

"I happen to know the candidate and feel very comfortable articulating his position on the issues," Chaffetz said when asked why he’s become a go-to surrogate. "Going out there to represent the governor on his array of issues, not everybody can do that."

Chaffetz was one of the first members of Congress to jump on the Romney train — even bypassing the short-lived presidential campaign of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who helped elevate Chaffetz in Utah politics. And Romney has turned to the congressman as a good link to the tea-party wing of the GOP.

While Chaffetz is often found on television stumping for Romney, another well-known Utahn, Mike Leavitt, has been toiling in the background to prepare for a potential Romney presidency.

Mike Leavitt • Leavitt, who stepped down as Utah’s governor in 2003 to serve in President George W. Bush’s administration, was at Romney’s side in New Hampshire in January when Sen. John McCain made his endorsement official. Leavitt traveled with Romney during the primary.

So when Romney needed someone to head up what his campaign calls the Readiness Project, he picked Leavitt, who was known as a governor who delved into the details and sought to "think big" about problems facing the state.

"I do think they have developed a significant amount of trust in their time since the Olympics," says Natalie Gochnour, a longtime Leavitt confidante. "They’ve built an enduring friendship."

The former Utah governor got to know Romney when he came in to head the 2002 Winter Olympics. As governor, Leavitt had a public-relations crisis of immense proportions for a small state like Utah when the Games got tripped up in an international bribery scandal.

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