Utah isn't likely to produce its own serious presidential candidate at least not until it grows much larger and more politically important.
Mitt Romney, however, came as close to being a favorite son as is possible.
There were a variety of reasons for that. Although his strongest ties were to Massachusetts and Michigan, he is indelibly linked to the largest and most famous public event in Utah history. The 2002 Winter Olympics were in disarray and laboring under the weight of scandal before Romney came to town.
The other big reason, of course, is his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which owns this newspaper). That alone would not necessarily have won him great support here. In Utah, church members are used to seeing a variety of fellow faithful on ballots representing both major parties, as well as several smaller parties. However, the political platforms Romney espoused in this race mirrored those of many conservative Utahns.
Add to that the extra attention his candidacy brought to the church. While largely positive, this served to expose many bigots who were anxious to mischaracterize and lampoon the church. Small wonder, then, that so many people here rallied behind him. Romney's almost 90 percent support in last Tuesday's Utah Republican primary bears this out.
By long-standing tradition, we do not endorse candidates. We are not about to change that policy. We are impressed, however, with the way Romney generated political excitement in Utah. He raised $5.2 million here, helping to put Utah on a recent New York Times list of top fundraising states in the presidential race.
The danger is that Romney's decision Thursday to withdraw from the race, announced in a stirring speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, will dissolve that enthusiasm into apathy.
Politics has been called many things. Most often, however, it is known as the art of compromise and the art of the possible. Even the politicians who accomplished the most in American history couldn't have made that change possible without first learning to compromise along the way. Few voters find a candidate who mirrors their personal beliefs perfectly. Instead, they search for large areas of agreement and prioritize issues by importance. Emotion serves as a poor political rudder.
This presidential race is far from over. Romney himself may not have made his final exit. Our hope is that Utahns remain educated, energized and engaged in the process.