A significant 59 percent of registered voters surveyed statewide said they'd be more likely to vote for John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, if he picks Mitt Romney as his running mate.
And nearly as many who responded to the Deseret News/KSL-TV poll said just the opposite about Democrat Barack Obama if he were to choose Hillary Clinton as his vice president. If Clinton was to take the No. 2 spot, 57 percent said they'd be less likely to vote for Obama.
The poll of 405 registered voters was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates June 16-19 statewide and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
"You don't usually vote for the vice president, but because of Romney and because of Hillary, this year could be different," pollster Dan Jones said. "It could have great impact," even in GOP-dominated Utah.
Romney is immensely popular here, winning 90 percent of the vote in Utah's presidential primary last February before dropping out of the race for the White House. He is the former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics and, like most Utahns, a Mormon.
Clinton, though, is nowhere near as well-liked in Utah.
"They don't like Hillary very much," Jones said. "That would really hurt Obama in Utah if she's on the ticket. That's unfortunate because she's worked so hard to be the first female president."
Jones blamed a combination of sexism and negative attitudes toward Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, who managed only a third-place finish in Utah's 1992 general election. Hillary Clinton lost to Obama in Utah's Democratic presidential primary in February.
Both McCain and Obama are in the process of reviewing potential vice-presidential candidates. McCain continues to be the choice of a majority of Utahns, according to the poll, with 57 percent of respondents to 29 percent for Obama.
McCain's Utah-based Western regional states coordinator, Tim Bridgewater, said even if Romney isn't on the GOP ticket, McCain's poll numbers will continue to climb. Still, Bridgewater said, it's clear McCain would get a big boost in Utah by naming Romney.
"Romney is certainly being considered and has a lot of support nationally, as do other candidates," Bridgewater said. "My sense is he brings a lot to the ticket, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of interest and a lot of leadership."
Democrats acknowledge Hillary Clinton has had a tough time.
"I think there's a lot of really strong feelings about Hillary Clinton," said Misty Fowler, the head of Utah for Obama. "She didn't appeal to the independent base nearly as much as Obama did."
Donald Dunn, who served as Clinton's campaign representative in Utah, said voters didn't see past the way she was portrayed in the media and by her opponents. "I think people believe they know who she is, but really, that's a cartoon caricature," Dunn said.
While a strong 70 percent of the registered voters polled said they'd like to see McCain select Romney, there wasn't much agreement on who they wanted Obama to put on the Democratic ticket.
Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had the most support with 26 percent of the respondents, followed by another former candidate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, with 16 percent, and Clinton, with 12 percent.
However, nearly one-fourth 21 percent said they didn't know who should be the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. Jones said many Utahns surveyed weren't familiar with some of the potential vice-presidential picks.
But Dunn had a simpler explanation."Those people are normal and don't think about who the vice president is going to be when they're worrying about why the price of gas is going up so much and why they can't afford a vacation," Dunn said. "They're not political junkies."
E-mail: [email protected]