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Washington • Rep. Jason Chaffetz is the latest Utah House member to endorse presidential candidate Marco Rubio and will campaign for him in two key primary states this week.
Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was an active surrogate for Mitt Romney in his 2012 presidential quest and already plans to stump with Rubio. The Utah Republican will be in New Hampshire on Friday and in South Carolina on Saturday with the Florida senator.
"Marco Rubio is a conservative leader who understands the challenges facing American families in the 21st century," Chaffetz said in a statement released by the Rubio campaign. "I'm looking forward to hitting the campaign trail with Marco to talk about the future of our country and the importance of electing a next-generation conservative in 2016."
Utah Reps. Rob Bishop, Mia Love and Chris Stewart have previously said they would back Rubio, who spent part of his youth as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before returning to Catholicism. All members of Utah's all-GOP federal delegation are Mormon.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, publicly backs former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush while Sen. Mike Lee is neutral, so far, in the GOP nomination contest.
In a town hall in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Lee pointed out how awkward it is for him with not only Rubio, but also Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas in the Republican race.
"One of the weirdest things that can happen to a person is to have his three favorite co-workers run for president of the United States at the same time," he said. "So far I have prevented any of them from inflicting bodily harm on the other, we'll see whether that holds out as we head into Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina."
Lee said he values those friendships, which is why he hasn't picked a side. Even so, Rubio's tax plan is one he developed with Lee's help. On the flip side, Rubio has slammed Cruz for supporting the USA Freedom Act, a bill Lee sponsored, which ended the government's bulk collection of telephone metadata and limited access to such information.
Rubio said that is a bill for which the terrorist group Islamic State, often called ISIS, would lobby.
"I disagree with his statement on that entirely, by the way," Lee told reporters.
The senator, seen as a major figure in conservative politics, intends to support "whoever the Republican nominee is," including if that person is current front-runner Donald Trump.
Matt Canham contributed to this report.