Utah GOP chairman: Draft Mitt in 2016

Published: Friday, May 2 2014 9:10 p.m. MDT

"We have not made a secret about this," the GOP chairman said, promising a public launch of the effort is coming and will likely be made in South Carolina, the first southern presidential primary state. "We have our job to do."

Part of that job, Evans said, is to make the public understand the push isn't coming from the potential candidate.

"The thing we always have to balance against, is the public perception whether this is an official Romney action or a grassroots action," he said, noting the signs at the political convention were intended to build interest.

"It wasn't designed to be staffed. It was designed to promote the idea," Evans said of the booth. The signs, he said, were grabbed up by convention delegates. "Clearly, Utah is not the problem."

One of Romney's strongest backers in Utah, though, isn't part of the effort.

"Of course I wish he were the president now and would be willing to run in 2016," said Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "I will always be his biggest supporter, but I take him at his word that the answer is no."

Despite Romney's "favorite son" status in Utah, the state party didn't include his name in a 2016 presidential straw poll taken at a Western Republican Leadership Conference fundraising dinner the night before the convention.

The winner of the straw poll with 39 percent of the vote was Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who appeared at a Republican rally in Utah after the dinner. His nearest competitor, with 18 percent, was another GOP senator with tea party ties, Paul.

Evans said including Romney in the straw poll would have skewed the results.

"We were trying to be good sports," he said. "That would have been unfair."

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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