Last March I wrote a column outlining why I believe GOP presidential nominee John McCain will not pick Mitt Romney as his vice-presidential running mate.

I want to thank all those (several hundred) who commented on the column, most convinced that I am a complete idiot.

Even so, I still believe that McCain won't pick Romney.

Although I must say that Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the much-loved savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, has worked like a dog for McCain since Romney himself got out of the GOP presidential race late last winter.

Romney's name is now one of three or four most mentioned as a v.p. contender by those close to McCain.

So the possibility is much higher than last spring that Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, could be on the ticket.

A McCain-Romney team would be about the worst thing that could happen to Utah Democrats, now that Romney can't win the presidential nomination himself.

Romney's name would be on the ballot here. And there's little doubt that he would campaign in Utah — and throughout the Mountain West — and really energize Republican and Mormon voters.

Utah Democratic leaders were hoping for a good showing in Utah this year. And they have reasons for optimism. While President Bush's job-approval rating is still more than 50 percent in Utah (in the low 30s throughout the rest of America), like in other locales, a lot of Utahns really disapprove of the president's actions.

A recent Dan Jones & Associates poll for this newspaper found that 68 percent of Utah's independent voters — key to Democratic victories in many Utah elections — don't like Bush. In the same survey, Jones found that Utah independent voters prefer Democrat Barack Obama to McCain, 45-34 percent.

Utah GOP leaders here recognize the danger of unhappy Republicans and disaffected independents — that's why they are spending tens of thousands of dollars on the state party's "I Can" public relations campaign. I Can's theme is that local and state governments in Utah are well managed by GOP incumbents, who deserve to be returned to office in 2008.

Romney's name on November's Utah ballot, his campaigning here and his fundraising power, would be a godsend to Utah Republicans and a real body blow to local Democrats.

But McCain will not make the v.p. decision on what's good for Utah Republicans.

McCain will carry Utah no matter what. The state is solidly Republican in presidential voting, giving Bush his largest victory majorities in both 2000 and 2004. Hey, Bill Clinton finished third here in 1992.

No, for McCain to pick Romney the Arizona senator will have to be convinced that Romney's positives across the country are greater than Romney's negatives.

And in the end, that's why I still believe McCain will pick someone else, even though he's keeping Romney at the top of his v.p. list.

In fact, floating the names of the men or women whom you vanquished in the presidential primaries and caucuses has become tradition in U.S. presidential politics. After lambasting intraparty challengers on the campaign trail, calling them and their programs all kinds of names, in the late spring and summer up to the party convention the presumptive nominee makes kissy-face with them. And usually the vanquished respond in kind.

What's unusual this year, however, is just how hard Romney has worked for McCain. Many national pundits say Romney is now running for vice president much better than he did for president.

After seeing Romney close up during the Olympics, Utahns know this guy is smart, a hard worker and a charmer. And on the ballot he could lead to Republican landslides here.

But the question remains: Can Romney really help McCain in Michigan (Romney's birth home where his father was governor), in Ohio or other swing states, and in the Deep South — where Romney's religion and questionable conservative credentials may be an issue?

I still see McCain picking someone else as his running mate — and mentioning Romney as a possible Cabinet member to keep loyal Romney supporters onboard the Republican presidential train.


Deseret News political editor Bob Bernick Jr. may be reached by e-mail at bbjr@desnews.com