GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney may take a bit of pleasure in winning a straw vote in Saturday's state Republican convention.

But like kissing your sister, it doesn't mean much.

In fact, Romney's win doesn't mean anything at all.

That's because unlike most other presidential years in Utah, the delegates to the 2008 GOP nominating convention will not be deciding who gets Utah's several dozen votes in next summer's national convention — rank-and-file GOP voters will decide that in the Feb. 5 statewide presidential primary.

And Saturday's straw poll measured delegate strength, not average voter strength.

In addition, the Utah Republican Party has a winner-take-all rule for presidential delegates, says Dana Dickson, head of the state party's constitution and bylaws committee.

So unless Romney gets out of the race before Feb. 5, it is clear from public opinion polls (where he carries more than a 30 percentage point lead) that Romney will get the most votes Feb. 5 and carry all of Utah's GOP delegates back to the national convention in Minneapolis, Minn.

This will be Utah's second presidential primary. And it's hoped that the Feb. 5 vote will mean something — especially since taxpayers are kicking in $3.5 million to pay for the statewide election.

The first presidential primary vote in 2000 ended up not meaning anything because it took place just a few days after then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush locked up the GOP nomination by winning a number of big-state primaries.

And whoever gets the most GOP national delegate votes in Utah will end up taking this state's Electoral College votes as well — Utah has not voted for the Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Florida and several other states have scheduled their presidential-preference decisions — either primaries or party caucuses — before next year's "Super-duper Tuesday" on Feb. 5.

That's when a dozen or so states, including Utah, with many of the GOP's national votes, will hold a multistate primary election.

During most presidential election years here, state delegates, by vote, decide which GOP candidate gets Utah's allocated national convention delegates. And the different candidates — through their Utah campaigns — put forward slates of supporters.

That division will still happen. But instead of delegates allocating Utah's national convention candidate votes, primary voters will do that on Feb. 5.

Saturday's GOP delegate vote was additionally warped because only half of the state delegates came to the convention.

In what is basically a meaningless vote, Romney, a Mormon and former head of the Utah Winter Olympic Games, won with 80 percent of the vote. No other candidate got in double digits.

Former Libertarian, now GOP, candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul from Texas came in second with 5.41 percent; former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani got 4.4 percent and U.S. Sen. John McCain got 4.17 percent.


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com