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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News archives
Orrin Hatch

LOGAN — Sen. Orrin Hatch says he would support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for president in 2012, citing Romney's efforts on behalf of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Hatch told The Herald Journal of Logan that he supported Romney's 2008 presidential campaign and he fully expects Romney to run again for the White House next year.

Huntsman, a fellow Republican, is leaving his post as ambassador to China and is seen as a potential White House contender in 2012.

"I've always been a Romney supporter. I've been committed to Mitt from day one," Hatch said. "So even though I am very close to the Huntsman family and like Jon Jr. very much, they know that I've been committed to Mitt. I can't change that commitment. My commitments mean something."

Hatch, R-Utah, praised Romney's economic background and decision-making ability, including his role as chief executive of the 2002 Winter Games.

"We saw him in action here in Utah in the Olympics," he said. "We were in real trouble and had very little time left, and people were not going to donate. So he came in and straightened it all out and brought the right people in — the right financial people and so forth — and it turned out to be the best Winter Olympics in history."

Utah's senior senator made the remarks in an interview before speaking at Friday night's Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual fund-raiser for the Cache County Republican Party.

Hatch, who faces a possible challenge from U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, when he seeks a seventh term in 2012, touted his experience in the U.S. Senate.

"The fact of the matter is that I've been there long enough to get a lot done in the past, but nowhere near what I can get done in the future," he said, noting he's the ranking member of Finance Committee where money bills originate.