Over the next few days, GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. will travel to Utah to raise money from their old neighbors. But one of them has been much more successful at that in the past than the other.
Ironically, it's the one who never held public office in Utah Romney, the former head of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
In 2008, he raised about $5.5 million from nearly 9,300 individuals in Utah as he ran for president, according to a Salt Lake Tribune analysis of campaign disclosure forms.
That was 37 times as much from 73 times as many donors as Huntsman raised that same year from Utah individuals as he ran for governor.
Huntsman raised about $150,000 from about 130 Utah individuals in donations that year to his campaign and a political action committee that funneled money to it.
Huntsman raised the lion's share of his money from corporations, which like all donors to state-level races in Utah could give without limit under Utah law. But corporations are banned by federal law from donating to federal races, and all federal donors in 2008 were limited to giving no more than $2,300 per race (increased to $2,500 now).
That may complicate how effective Huntsman may be in raising money in Utah this year.
"In Utah [state-level races], you can raise what you need from a relatively small number of people because there are no campaign contribution limits," said Kelly Patterson, director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University.
"Under Utah's law, you don't have to work very hard to raise money because you can go to a few individuals or a few corporations and get very large checks," he said. On top of that, Huntsman did not have a highly competitive campaign in 2008, so he did not need to raise huge amounts.
"The federal campaign finance environment is completely different," Patterson said. "There, you want to raise money from big donors who can contribute the max as well as hundreds of small donors which you can do from a good fundraising list. That takes a little more time and effort."
He added that Romney was so successful at that in Utah in 2008 because Utah Mormons, especially, were motivated by "the excitement of seeing someone with ties to the state running."
Amid such excitement, Romney raised more money in Utah than in any other state except much-larger California. He even raised $1.3 million more in Utah than he did in Massachusetts, where he had been governor.
With that background, Patterson predicts, "They will both get money here, but you would think that Governor Romney would get more just because he's signed up more people early and has been in the race longer, and has a history of a federal campaign already here. That's not to say Governor Huntsman can't raise money here, and he certainly will, but you wouldn't expect his numbers to approach Romney's."
Romney will be in Utah on Friday to raise money at a luncheon in Orem and an evening reception at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. Huntsman earlier had planned also to be in Utah on Friday, but postponed that visit until Tuesday.
The two candidates may be trying to appeal to different pools of potential donors in the state.
A Tribune analysis of campaign disclosure records shows that only 26 individuals in Utah gave to both Romney and Huntsman in 2008 (a list of them is online at sltrib.com).
Some of those who contributed to both may wrestle with what to do in the presidential campaign.
Clark Ivory, CEO of Ivory Homes who gave $2,100 to Romney in 2008 and $5,000 to Huntsman said he has been invited to fundraisers by both Romney and Huntsman.
"I've committed to give money to Romney, but I haven't decided yet on Huntsman. I'm fans of both, but I'm leaning towards Romney because I think he has the best chance of winning," Ivory said. "I think Jon is aiming more for four years from now."
Eliana White, a lobbyist who gave $2,100 to Romney and $100 to Huntsman in 2008, said, "I support Huntsman. He has a moderate voice, and I think he did a fabulous job as governor. I haven't given any money to Romney [this year] once I heard that Huntsman may be running. But I get mail from Romney weekly. Once you give money to these people, it's just crazy."
Former Salt Lake County Commissioner M. Tom Shimizu who in 2008 donated $750 to Romney and $200 to Huntsman said he is remaining neutral for now.
"They are both friends of ours, so we just remain neutral. We have donated to both in the past, and probably will donate to both again," he said. Shimizu added that Romney's campaign has contacted him seeking money, but said Huntsman's has not done so yet.
O See a list of Utahns who donated to Romney and Huntsman in 2008.
Romney attending fundraiser Friday
P Romney's schedule has him attending a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser in Orem at noon at the home of Apex Alarm CEO Todd Pedersen; a public meet-and-greet at 3:15 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Hires Restaurant at 425 S. 700 East; and a 5:30 p.m. fundraising dinner at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, also at $1,000 per person.