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Mitt Romney picks former Utah governor Mike Leavitt to lead transition team

Mike Leavitt, the former governor of Utah and health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush, has been charged with leading presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s transition team.

Leavitt has acted as a low-profile adviser to Romney during the campaign, and the two have been close since Leavitt, as governor, courted Romney to run the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

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“I was looking for a businessman who had a good political instinct,” Leavitt said in “The Real Romney,” by Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman.

Leavitt’s transition team appointment was reported first by Politico. Leavitt is considered a strong candidate to become Romney’s chief of staff, according to the report, should the former Massachusetts governor beat President Obama in November.

The formation of a transition team may appear to be presumptuous, but party nominees typically begin preparing to take office well in advance of Election Day.

Leavitt, 61, and Romney, 65, have much in common: They are Mormons, businessmen and former governors, and both are considered right-leaning moderates.

“We’ve spent a fair amount of time together since the Olympics,” Leavitt told Politico. “And when we were together, we’d talk about where the country was headed, whether Mitt should run, family — just the kinds of things friends talk about.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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