All hail Mitt Romney.

The current GOP Mormon and former Salt Lake Winter Olympic boss on Tuesday could well win the largest victory ever in a major Utah election — in this case the state's Republican Party's presidential primary — a new poll shows.

And while Democrats across the nation are split over Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., to be their party's presidential nominee, Utah Democrats are nearly two-to-one in favor of Obama, a Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV survey finished Friday found.

Obama leads the "most likely to vote" Democrats 53-29 percent over Clinton.

In 1996, then-GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt won re-election with more than 74 percent of the vote — a modern day landslide record.

Romney may eclipse that mark. Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that 84 percent of Utah Republicans who said they are likely to vote in Tuesday's GOP presidential primary favor Romney, the Michigan-born, BYU-educated, former governor of Massachusetts. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the national Republican front-runner, finishes a very distant second with only 4 percent of the GOP vote.

Utahns registered as Republicans, or political independents who agree to register as a Republican at Tuesday's polls, can vote in the GOP primary. Anyone registered as a Democrat or any political independent can vote in the Democratic presidential primary. Polls are open Tuesday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Jones found a very high interest in the primary — Utah being one of two dozen states Tuesday holding primaries or political party caucuses.

Like several GOP state primaries, the winner in Utah (almost assuredly Romney) will take all of the several dozen GOP delegates allocated to Utah by the Republican National Committee.

But Utah's Democratic Party national delegates will be split proportionally, reflecting the actual vote percentages — so while Obama may win many of the delegates, even a fading finish by Clinton will give her some, too.

Romney's father, George, also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ran for president as a Republican in 1968 — but got out of the race early. The younger Romney is the first Mormon to have a real shot at his party's nomination and the presidency in the nation's history. And Utah Republicans stand by their man.

Eighty-nine percent of Republican Mormon Utahns favor Romney in Tuesday's vote, Jones found. And 53 percent of Utah Republicans believe that Romney will ultimately be their party's presidential nominee, regardless of McCain's current lead.

Also, Romney has raised more than $5 million from Utahns over the past year, the latest Federal Election Commission reports show — far outpacing the fundraising here of any other presidential candidate, Republican or Democratic.

But Utah Democrats don't think Romney has such a good chance of being our next president. Perhaps reading the national polls, only 27 percent of Democrats think Romney will ultimately win, while 56 percent of Democrats think that if there is a GOP president, it will be McCain.

Both Utah Democrats and Republicans think that if a Democrat wins the White House, it will be Obama, not Clinton. Half of the Democrats think Obama would be the Democratic winner, while 57 percent of Utah Republicans think that it will be the Illinois senator, if it is any Democrat.

Asked who, in either party, will ultimately become president a year from now, Utah Republicans are unsure. Thirty-six percent said they don't know or have a guess; 31 percent said it will be Romney; McCain limps in at only 9 percent.

Utah Democrats are more sure. Thirty-six percent said Obama will take the oath of office, 24 percent didn't know, and 22 percent said it will be Clinton.

In short, Clinton and McCain don't do very well in the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.5 percent in both the Republican and Democratic columns.

McCain likely suffers only because Romney is so popular in this Republican-, LDS-dominated state.

The displeasure with Clinton may go deeper. Former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton's husband, never did very well here, actually finishing third in 1992 behind independent Ross Perot and then-GOP President George H.W. Bush. In 1996, Utahns overwhelmingly objected when Bill Clinton designated a big chunk of south-central Utah as a new national monument without a vote of Congress.


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com