Democrat Bob Springmeyer said Wednesday his race would be all but over if Mitt Romney is chosen as Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate.
"If McCain picks Romney for the ticket, I can go fishing for the rest of the campaign," Springmeyer told the Deseret News with a smile, suggesting he would have little hope of defeating GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. with such a popular Republican on the ballot.
After all, Romney, the former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like the majority of Utahns, won 90 percent of the vote in the state's GOP presidential primary last February before dropping his bid for the White House.
McCain, who has not been as popular in Utah despite the state being a Republican stronghold, has yet to name his choice for vice president. Romney is widely seen as at or near the top of McCain's list of potential running mates.
Springmeyer did say that one of the possible choices could actually help him and other Democrats come November former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination.
Huckabee, a Baptist minister, drew criticism during the campaign for questioning Romney's Mormon faith, asking an interviewer, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" Huckabee later apologized.
His comment, however, has not won him much support in Utah. And although Huckabee would help McCain with evangelical voters in the South, he has not been widely discussed as a likely vice-presidential candidate.
Still, Springmeyer can hope.
"If it's Huckabee, I could probably start measuring the governor's office and ordering the moving truck," Springmeyer joked, acknowledging Huckabee is a long shot. "I don't think that's going to happen."
Springmeyer, who described himself as an inactive member of the LDS Church for the past 20 years, said he was embarrassed by what he called "Mormon bashing" while Romney was still in the race.
"It surprised me in its voracity and how open it was and how blatant it was," Springmeyer said of the comments made during the campaign about the LDS Church. "I thought there had been more progress."
Springmeyer said it's not clear if the attacks on Mormon beliefs would continue if Romney were added to the GOP presidential ticket. But he said Romney would have difficulty in the South, where many evangelicals refuse to consider Mormons as fellow Christians.
That's a view Springmeyer shares with his opponent.
Huntsman has said Romney's Mormon faith would be "a boon" in some Western states with large LDS populations, but there are "certain Southern states in which that might be a negative."
Huntsman bucked the GOP establishment in Utah by backing McCain early on and has himself been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential contender. The governor has dismissed that possibility, but said Romney's a serious contender.
A Romney vice-presidential run would be good news for GOP candidates this fall, of course. Like Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights, who faces a tough race for reelection."If Mitt Romney is the vice-presidential nominee, that will be great for all Republicans," Walker said. "Otherwise, the dynamics are tough. Even loyal Republicans are not happy with some of the things in Washington. The deficit spending is very disturbing to me and other Republicans."
Contributing: Bob Bernick Jr.