Along with other imponderables such as quantum physics, the tax code, cricket and Paris Hilton, I made it this far in my life never understanding the presidential primaries, which was fine by me.

But then along comes the Romney factor and I find myself wanting to know exactly how a person gets nominated to run for president of this fine country.

The Romney factor refers, of course, to Willard Mitt Romney and his bid to win the 2008 presidential election.

As is the case, I presume, with many Utahns, Romney throwing his hat in the ring has changed things this go-around.

When he came to Utah to run the Olympics, I met Mitt Romney. A time or two we chatted. If he saw me on the street I think he'd be pretty sure it was me.

I don't know about you, but I have never before personally talked to a person actually running for president — other than Orrin Hatch in 2000, and Hatch lasted about as long as a Twinkie on the media bus.

The possibility of a person living in the White House you could shout "Hey Mitt" or "Hey Prez" to and not get lasered turns presidential politics personal.

This isn't just another politician raising your taxes, this is someone you know raising your taxes.

So when the Iowa caucuses were held last Thursday, I wanted to know what Romney's second-place finish to Mike Huckabee meant.

And I'm curious about the importance of tomorrow's New Hampshire primary.

And just how do you ultimately become your party's choice for president anyway?

You can't get this information from TV because the commentators act like everyone was born Tim Russert.

So I went to the fount of all wisdom: Google.

At a Web site called "The Green Papers" I discovered that a Republican in 2008 needs 1,191 delegate votes at the national convention next September. That's out of a total of 2,343 delegates — so slightly more than half.

The purpose of the caucuses and primaries between then and now is to determine whom the delegates will vote for.

But it is not an exact science. Some delegates won't commit until later, some not even until the convention. And others might change their mind in the meantime.

In Iowa, Huckabee got 34 percent of the Republican vote so he is credited with 13 delegates (out of 40), while Romney, who got 25 percent, gets nine.

But those numbers could change depending on who stays in the race.

In New Hampshire, 12 delegates are up for grabs. It would have been 24, but the Republican Party penalized New Hampshire for holding its primary too early (even though it's been doing so since 1952).

In the big delegate picture, then, Iowa and New Hampshire are about as important as the first minute of a Jazz game.

Super Duper Tuesday on Feb. 5, when more than 20 states, including Utah, will hold primaries, will be a much bigger deal.

But for some reason, if a candidate doesn't do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, he likely won't even make it that far.

I trust this is now all perfectly clear.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.