2012 match: Romney 73% vs. Obama 22% in Utah
Tribune poll Sarah Palin and Ron Paul also outdraw president.
By Thomas Burr

The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 05/03/2010 12:12:22 PM MDT


Washington Mitt Romney enjoys nearly lock-step support of Mormons in Utah and would wallop President Barack Obama in the state in two years if the former Massachusetts governor is the GOP nominee, a new Salt Lake Tribune poll shows.

But then, Sarah Palin and Ron Paul would handily beat the incumbent, too -- just by smaller landslides.

Romney nabs 73 percent to Obama's 22 percent in a hypothetical match-up, with only 5 percent of those polled undecided about whom they would support in 2012 if those were the choices.

"I don't think anybody would argue with me if I said Utah is Mitt Romney's strongest state. Period," says J. Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the poll for The Tribune . "That's his political base: Utah."

Romney, whose Mormon faith is shared by more than 60 percent of Utahns, fares much better than other prominent Republicans named as potential 2012 candidates. But in each case, the president would lose the Beehive State by big margins.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin drew 53 percent of those polled against Obama's 32 percent, while Paul, a darling of the tea party movement, captured 48 percent to Obama's 31 percent.

The poll of 400 registered voters was conducted April 26-28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Romney, who is also revered by Utahns for rescuing the scandal-tarred 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, is clearly the pick of Republicans in the state. In Utah's 2008 presidential primary, Romney carried 89 percent of the vote.

That support, however, drops off a bit with Republican delegates to the state convention: Just over half of delegates backed Romney for the Republican nod. Nearly 20 percent of delegates said they supported Paul for president over Romney.

University of Utah political scientist Matthew Burbank says that's a little shocking.

"I'm surprised Romney support wasn't stronger among delegates," he said. "They may see Romney as not quite conservative enough, which is surprising because essentially what he's been doing since he lost [his 2008 GOP nomination bid] is going around and telling people how conservative he is."

Utah Republican delegates can be a tough crowd.

If former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., now the U.S. ambassador to China, is added to the mix, he grabs just 10 percent of delegates' support for president, pulling pretty much all of that following from Romney backers. Huntsman would finish third, behind Romney and Paul and be about even with Palin. Mason-Dixon polled 400 state delegates April 22-25 and the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Not surprisingly, more than half of Utahns -- 54 percent -- give Obama an unfavorable rating while about 30 percent of those polled handed the commander in chief positive reviews. Obama won about 35 percent of Utah's vote in 2008, the highest percentage a Democratic candidate has received since 1968, when Hubert Humphrey was the nominee.

"I don't know there's anything that he's done as president that would have endeared him more to the voters of Utah," Coker said. "I don't think the Obama election team is putting together any kind of a Utah strategy."

tburr@sltrib.com