SALT LAKE CITY — Would-be presidential candidate Donald Trump may suddenly be a contender, according to national polls, but the host of TV's "Celebrity Apprentice" is no match for Mitt Romney in Utah.
Trump, who's enjoying plenty of press for his rapid rise in popularity among voters nationally, may want to fire himself as a candidate in a Utah GOP primary based on a new Deseret News/KSL poll.
If the choice in a Utah GOP primary were between Romney and Trump, Romney would get the votes of 83 percent of Utahns, compared to just 11 percent for Trump.
"I think Utahns realize that one man has a vision for running the country and the other man, a vision for getting his ratings up," said Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and a longtime Romney supporter.
Jowers said he was surprised Trump had as much support as he did in Utah. "We have 11 percent who want to be an apprentice," he said, referring to Trump's popular TV show that allows him to choose someone each season to help him run his business empire.
Even with other Republicans in the mix, Trump ends up in fourth place among Utahns polled, with 5 percent compared to 69 percent for Romney, the former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Trump also trailed former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and unspecified "other" candidates in the overnight poll, conducted Thursday by Dan Jones & Associates of 247 Utahns statewide with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.3 percent
Huntsman, who's stepping down this month as U.S. ambassador to China for a possible White House run, was the choice of 14 percent of Utahns while 7 percent said they liked "other."
Only 2 percent of those polled selected former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and just 1 percent want to see Baptist preacher and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as the GOP nominee.
Nationally, it's a much different story for Trump. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed him tied for second with Huckabee with 17 percent and Romney just five points ahead.
Jowers said Trump's ascent in that and other polls suggest voters see him a "the shiny new toy." So far, he said, Trump has only raised the so-called "birther" issue, questioning whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
That's far from the vision other likely candidates are offering, Jowers said. Still, he said, there are voters "hungry for someone who understands business and the economy" who may be looking to Trump.
But not in Utah.
"I think in Utah, we know Romney and we know Huntsman and we like them. So we aren't looking for something new," Jowers said. "For anyone out there who's undecided, they're far more likely to have their head turned."
Quin Monson, associate director of Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, isn't taking a Trump candidacy seriously.
"It seems more like Donald Trump is talking about the race to promote Donald Trump. Which he's always been very good at," Monson said. "This is a chance for him to get in the papers and get publicity."
Besides, Monson said, Trump is likely to tire of politics once his personal life, including his divorces and business difficulties, is subjected to the same level of scrutiny as other candidates.
The same goes for his no-holds-barred comments, most notably during a long-running feud with former daytime talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell. Currently, he's fighting publicly with a New York Times columnist.
"He's been a little loose-lipped. If you're undisciplined like that, you're bound to eventually step in it," Monson said. "There's so many land mines, I'd be shocked if he didn't lose interest or step on one of them."
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