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Will Utah play a more prominent role in 2016 presidential primary?

Published: Saturday, March 29 2014 3:23 p.m. MDT

"Part of the charm of New Hampshire and Iowa is the ritual and the pageantry," he said, that would be lacking in an online election, along with the "lingering doubts" there would be about its validity.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats in Utah have much interest in seeing the state challenge New Hampshire's top spot.

"It's like playing chicken," Utah's Republican National Committeeman Bruce Hough said. There should be a good reason for moving an election, he said, "not because our feelings get hurt because we're not being noticed."

Hough said the Republican National Committee decided earlier this year to move up the 2016 nominating convention from August or September to as early as June, and shortened the primary election calendar from six months to as little as three months.

Now, only Iowa and New Hampshire, along with the other early voting states of South Carolina and Nevada, will be allowed to hold elections before March 1 without being penalized by the national GOP with a loss of delegates.

Utah Republicans are working with their counterparts in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona to put together a regional primary that would be held between March 15 and April 1, Hough said.

Matt Lyon, executive director of Utah's Democratic Party, said there's no interest in bucking the Democratic National Party for an early primary and losing delegates.

"We just wouldn't fight that fight," Lyon said.

No matter when the primary ends up being held, Utah will have influence on the presidential election through Gov. Gary Herbert, who shortly will become vice chairman and then chairman of the National Governors Association.

"There is a role for Utah to play," the governor said in a recent interview. "I'm a believer the next president ought to be a governor, somebody who's actually had to do something."

The governor said there's no shortage of good candidates, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, once seen as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination but now mired in a bridge-closing scandal.

"Chris Christie is running into a little bit of a stumbling block," said Herbert, who had Christie speak at a fundraiser in Utah during his 2012 re-election. "I think it's being magnified more than it probably really is. That's part of the political game."

Also mentioned as strong candidates by Herbert were Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Herbert was set to join Christie and other 2016 GOP hopefuls at a Republican Governors Association gathering in Park City on Sunday, described by Politico as a fundraising retreat.

But Utah's governor said he's not eyeing the White House.

"We do have people that say, 'You know, we like what we see in Utah. Could you translate that to Washington, D.C.?' I have no ambition to run for president," Herbert said. "I'm a realist."

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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