This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Politically, Mitt Romney and former Utah. Gov Mike Leavitt are often viewed as speaking with one voice, which is why their moves in the state's presidential caucus this week raised some eyebrows.
"Something stinks in Salt Lake City," tweeted former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has a strained relationship with both men. "Best friends Mitt Romney and Mike Leavitt supporting different candidates in Utah. Keep an eye on this."
Huntsman's tweet came hours after Leavitt endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Romney took to Facebook to advocate on behalf of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
But Leavitt said there is nothing untoward or calculated in their moves. He told The Salt Lake Tribune that the friends have the same goal – to make sure Donald Trump doesn't become the Republican nominee by forcing a contested election. They just have different strategies on how to get there.
"Mitt and I are in different situations," Leavitt said. "He is the previous nominee of the party I am not. He feels a need to remain strategically neutral. I feel a personal obligation to advocate for the person I feel would be the best president. I happen to feel Kasich can beat Hillary Clinton. I believe he is dramatically better prepared to be president."
Leavitt doesn't think Cruz gives the Republicans the best chance to win in November.
Romney explained his thinking in a Facebook post. He will vote for Cruz in Utah's caucus and thinks Republicans should support Cruz in the upcoming contests too, but he stopped short of an endorsement.
"At this stage, the only way we can reach an open convention is for Senator Cruz to be successful in as many of the remaining nomination elections as possible," he wrote. "A vote for Governor Kasich in future contests makes it extremely likely that Trumpism would prevail."
And Romney, who has blasted Trump repeatedly in recent weeks, defined Trumpism as being associated with "racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, vulgarity and, most recently, threats and violence."
A new poll conducted by Y2 Analytics, released Saturday, appears to back up Romney's point. It shows Cruz with 53 percent of the vote in Utah to Kasich's 29 percent with Trump well behind at just 11 percent. If Cruz stays above 50 percent during Tuesday's caucus, he'll win all of Utah's 40 delegates. If he drops below that threshold, the delegates will get split up proportionately.
Leavitt based his analysis on neither Cruz nor Kasich getting anywhere near half of the vote.
"Frankly, neither will be close to 50 percent," Leavitt told The Tribune.
And even if that's the case, he thinks it is hard to encourage voters to back a candidate that they don't support.
"Is it reasonable to ask voters to cast their ballot for a candidate they think is second best to affect a strategy?" Leavitt said. "I don't think so. Nor is it effective."
As for Huntsman, he hasn't endorsed any of the three GOP contenders, only saying that he'd back the eventual nominee, and unlike Romney, that would include Trump.