SALT LAKE CITY -- Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has asked a seasoned Washington veteran to quietly draft a plan for its candidate to assume power - that is, if he wins in November, of course.
Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt will lead the Readiness Project, the title the Romney campaign has given its transition-planning efforts, said Sarah Pompei, a Romney spokeswoman.
"This is exactly what the bipartisan legislation signed into law by President (Barack) Obama in 2010 encouraged candidates to do," she said.
With only 75 days between Election Night and Inauguration Day, it's commonplace for candidates to start planning early, and the 2010 law encourages them to do so to ensure continuity in government. But candidates don't like to draw too much attention to the effort, for fear people see it as overconfidence.
"The most important thing is to let the campaign be the focus of the attention and for us to very quietly do what needs to be done," Leavitt told Politico, which first reported the story.
Leavitt has been traveling with Romney, a fellow Mormon, and acting as a surrogate in states such as Nevada. The two became close in the lead-up to the Salt Lake Winter Olympics in 2002, when Leavitt was governor and Romney ran the planning of the event.
When contacted by The Salt Lake Tribune, Leavitt declined to comment.
The three-term Utah governor left office early in 2003 to lead the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush and later became Bush's health and human services secretary.
After the end of the Bush administration, Leavitt created his own health-care consulting firm, Leavitt Partners, which has worked with major companies seeking help with federal regulations. Recently the firm worked with states such as New Mexico, which are trying to set up a health-care exchange as required under the nation's new health-reform law.
Like Romney, Leavitt wants to see parts of the law, widely dubbed "Obamacare," eliminated. But he supports the idea of an online portal allowing consumers to shop for insurance plans. Massachusetts, where Romney was governor, and Utah were the first two states to establish exchanges.
According to Politico, Leavitt now has an office in Romney's Boston headquarters and sits in major planning meetings, though he engages sparingly. There has even been talk that Leavitt could have a prime staff position in a Romney administration.
(Contact Salt Lake Tribune reporter Matt Canham at email@example.com.)