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Chaffetz chooses Romney over Huntsman

Published: Tuesday, July 5 2011 3:31 p.m. MDT

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who ran the campaign that put Jon Huntsman Jr. in the Utah governor's mansion for the first time and served as Huntsman's first chief of staff, announced Tuesday he is backing Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

"Jon's a professional and I was able to talk to him late last week," Chaffetz told the Deseret News. "It was a little bit difficult, but I appreciate him hearing me out."

Chaffetz said his decision focused on who he felt has the best chance to unseat the president.

"My No. 1 goal is that I want to beat Barack Obama, and I think Mitt Romney is in the best position to do that. That's a major factor in that decision — major factor. I also like Mitt Romney's background and experience in dealing with the private sector. That's also a strong point for Jon Huntsman, but Mitt Romney has truly led the charge on a series of turnarounds that's very impressive."

The congressman also said Romney's prior run gives him a head start.

"He's uniquely situated," Chaffetz said. "Mitt Romney's got a nationwide organization at the grass roots and in his fundraising efforts. That's important if you're going against Barack Obama, who's got a grassroots organization and is openly talking about a billion-dollar campaign. We need somebody who's got those organizational skills and can raise the money to compete."

Chaffetz said he doesn't agree with Romney on every issue, but he believes the sooner Republicans rally around a candidate, the better.

Chaffetz spoke to other outlets about his choice to eschew Huntsman and back Romney:

The Hill: "I want to beat Barack Obama. Mitt Romney's in the best position to do that. Jon Huntsman's been very good to me. He'll be very formidable now and in the future. He's a good man, but I think Mitt Romney is uniquely situated to beat Barack Obama."

The Los Angeles Times: "It was a little difficult. Jon Huntsman is a good man, but when your goal is to beat Barack Obama I just think Mitt Romney is in a much better position to do that. He's laid this foundation for years. He's got a wonderful organization, the ability to raise the type of money (needed). And I just think he's going to make a great president. I think we need that type business background to get our economy back in shape."

Politico offered some instant analysis: "Chaffetz is mulling a primary challenge from the right to Sen. Orrin Hatch next year, so the fact that he's endorsing Romney is also a decent indicator of where the political safe ground for Utah conservatives is."

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

twitter: askargo

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