Utah governor says he's backing Ted Cruz

Story highlights

  • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert publicly announced he's supporting Ted Cruz the day ahead of his state's GOP caucuses
  • The endorsement is a coup for Cruz after Herbert had appeared at a John Kasich campaign event Friday

Washington (CNN)Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced he's supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday in his state's Republican presidential caucuses.

The popular governor's vote is a coup for Cruz, since Herbert had appeared at a campaign event Friday for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and had expressed admiration for his state-executive colleague.
    In a Facebook post, he underscored the reality that if one candidate tops 50% in Utah's caucuses, that contender gets all 40 of the state's delegates at the Republican National Convention -- a cold calculation that favors Cruz.
    Herbert didn't use the word "endorse" in his Facebook post -- but a Herbert spokeswoman said it's fair to consider the post an endorsement of Cruz.
    "Ted Cruz is a consistent conservative who understands the importance of federalism. I'm confident he will work to limit the federal government when it comes to education, public lands and other issues where states can do better than the federal government," Herbert wrote on Facebook.
    He continued: "Utah is no longer considered a flyover state. For the first time in recent memory, Utah voters will play a critical role in the presidential nominating contest. With one vacancy and possibly more on the U.S. Supreme Court, it is essential we have a president who will nominate a strong conservative to the court who will use the Constitution as his or her guide."
    Another former Utah governor, Mike Leavitt, is supporting Kasich. But Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican nominee who is a Mormon and votes in Utah, said he'll caucus for Cruz on Tuesday night.