Chaffetz backs Romney over ex-boss Huntsman

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) on Tuesday for president over his onetime boss, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R). 

Chaffetz, the conservative congressman who's considering a Senate run, picked Romney over Huntsman, both contestants in what's been informally described as the "Mormon Primary." All three men practice the Mormon religion.

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"I want to beat Barack Obama. Mitt Romney's in the best position to do that," Chaffetz said in a phone interview. "Jon Huntsman's been very good to me. He'll be very formidable now and in the future. He's a good man, but I think Mitt Romney is uniquely situated to beat Barack Obama."

Chaffetz had served as Huntsman's chief of staff before departing to run an ultimately successful primary race to run for the House. While most of Utah's GOP establishment has backed Romney, there had been some thought that Chaffetz might bolt for Huntsman because of their close relationship. 

The three-term congressman explained, though, that he had made prior commitments to supporting Romney before it had even seemed like Huntsman might enter the race. 

"I thought he was maybe a potential candidate in 2016," said Chaffetz, who explained his endorsement to Huntsman in a conversation the congressman described as "a little awkward."

Huntsman had previously declined to take sides in a potential primary next year between Chaffetz and Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Romney's potential comes down to his experience and finely tuned political organization, explained the congressman. 

"He's also got an organization that's big enough and broad enough to take on President Obama," Chaffetz said. "Mitt Romney's about as well-vetted as anybody out there."

And he had a warning for some of the would-be candidates: "If you're not in the race at this point, it's pretty difficult to build the kind of broad organization you need to win at the national level."

Chaffetz also said that he wouldn't expect Romney to pick sides in a possible matchup against Hatch, since both had expressed their support for the former Massachusetts governor.