Poll: Romney has wide lead over Huntsman in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mitt Romney would receive the vote of more than twice as many Utahns for president than fellow Republican Jon Huntsman Jr., according to a statewide poll. The Deseret News/KSL poll found that 56 percent of Utahns would cast their ballot for Romney, while 26 percent would choose Huntsman. Nine percent said they would vote for neither candidate, and another nine percent were undecided. Among Republican respondents, the poll found 72 percent would support Romney and just 15 percent would back Huntsman. In a Utah GOP primary with Mormons Romney and Huntsman, Sarah Palin would get 7 percent and Mike Huckabee would receive 4 percent, according to the poll. Romney, former leader of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, won the 2008 Utah GOP presidential primary with an unprecedented 90 percent of the vote. Huntsman, a former Utah governor, submitted his resignation as U.S. ambassador to China effective April 30 amid speculation he would run for president. The poll numbers don’t look promising for Huntsman nationally, said Matthew Wilson, a professor at Southern Methodist University who specializes in religion and politics. “If he can’t hold up to Romney even in Utah, it’s hard to see where he could surpass him,” Wilson said. Other analysts said Huntsman’s controversial stands cost him support among Republicans. Among other positions, he supported civil unions, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and climate change initiatives. Pollster Dan Jones said the prospect of two Mormons competing for the Republican nomination may be costing Huntsman support in Utah among voters who remember the focus on Romney’s faith during the 2008 race. “I think there are those who feel that having two Mormons will make the issue of religion much more predominate than it ought to be,” Jones told the Deseret News. “They might stop each other from getting the nomination.” The poll of 496 Utahns was conducted Tuesday through Thursday by Dan Jones & Associates. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

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