- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The possibility of a third Mitt Romney presidential run has received mixed reactions around the country, but in Romney’s adopted home of Utah, Republicans and even some Democrats are excited at the idea.

Romney, the most-high profile Mormon in America, is hugely popular in Utah, where more than 60 percent of the residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I think the LDS population felt like Mitt Romney put a good face on Mormonism to the United States, and I think that really endeared him to a lot of the LDS voters in Utah and elsewhere,” Utah State University political scientist Damon Cann said.

Beyond his church ties, Romney’s built a home in the Salt Lake City area and registered as a Utah voter. In 2012, he won the state with 73 percent of the vote. A decade earlier, the Brigham Young University graduate came in and turned around Salt Lake City’s bribery-tainted 2002 Winter Olympics.

If Romney ultimately enters the 2016 race, “He’s a lock to win Utah,” Cann said.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican and a member of the LDS church, said he’s “a big Mitt Romney fan” and he hopes he takes a hard look at running again.

“This country would have been well served if we were calling him ‘President Romney’ now,” Herbert said. “I think there’s significant buyer’s remorse.”

James Evans, the head of Utah’s Republican Party, launched a “Draft Mitt” campaign early last year, setting up social media accounts and an online petition to urge Romney to launch another campaign. At the time, the former presidential candidate was still issuing unequivocal denials that he’d ever run again.

Evans said he wasn’t convinced Romney’s political career was over after the 2012 loss.

“You look at the circumstances of the nation, and I just couldn’t see how he wouldn’t do it again,” Evans said. “That’s why we moved forward with the ‘Draft Mitt’ movement, just to give him that additional encouragement.”

The early effort gathered about 135,000 signatures. Evans acknowledges it probably wasn’t responsible for changing Romney’s mind, but he’s excited anyway.

“Third time’s a charm on this one,” said Evans, who notes it took Ronald Reagan three tries to win the presidency.

For Mormon Democrats, another Romney bid is complicated, said Crystal Young-Otterstrom, who chairs Utah’s LDS Democrats Caucus.

Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2012 and 2008 drew intense interest in his faith, and the so-called “Mormon Moment” opened the door for groups like the Utah LDS Democrats to speak to a national audience.

“We’d be excited in that, hopefully, some of that exposure that comes along with it would help us again,” she said.

Young-Otterstrom said despite disagreeing with Romney’s policies, members of her group have supported him in the past and likely would again.

“Will many members of our caucus vote for him if he did get the nomination again? Probably, some of them would,” she said. “Would some of them be happy to see a Mormon in the White House? I think we can all say that that could be cool.”

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