This very presidential election had as much to do in 1999 with the decision by the Mormon Church to eleveate Mitt Romney to the position of "Olympic Savior", as did his qualifications/prospects for doing the job that they selected him for. And lest my contention be doubted, please note that I maintained the very same thing at that time.
Did Romney get the job done? Certainly. But most of the elements were already in place, and it was openly rumored here in Salt Lake that members of the mormon billionaire Huntsman family, and the mormom billionaire Marriott family, along with a number of other extremely experienced, successful, and well connected mormon members of the national business leadership community were also under consideration for the position. (And this being Utah, don't think for a minute that anyone not selected by the Mormons was going to get the job.) The one characteristic, however, that set Mitt Romney apart from this very large field of excellent "applicants" was name recognition, with the name recognized on the national scene being that of George Romney.
(1) Were the Mormons in the drivers seat? The extent of Mormon land holdings in downtown Salt Lake is probably not familiar to outsiders. Suffice it to say, having entire city blocks of land made available to SLOC (Salt Lake Organizing Committee) at a rental cost of $1.00 was an extremely advantageous arrangement, the details of which had already been setteled in principle, and the usage of which had already been employed for planning purposes. Remember the veritable hours of T.V. time spent showcasing Medals Winners and the Mormom Temple simultaneously? That was not a coincidence. And the value of that certainly could have been great enough to keep the longstanding deal in place by itself. But if you think that millions of dollars of worldwide exposure AND gaining traction for a future Mormon run at the White House is beyond the ability of Mormon leadership to see the value of, and to polish up an already sweet deal by implementing, then you don't know Mormon leadership.
(2) By 1999 what had already been accomplished was huge in comparison to what remained to be done. Being the reddest of the red states meant Utah had a very senior Congressional Delegation, and this meant that the money to rebuild our freeway, and to create our modern light rail transit system had already been appropriated (to the tune of over $1 billion, as I recall). Further, funding was already in place to build an athletes village on federal land neighboring on the Campus of the University of Utah, and to have the entire package end up in State/University hands after the allotted one time use (the old Oly Village is now modern student housing, and the old student housing is now future U of U expansion). I mean, a ton of these kinds of things were already in place (many of them for several years) before the 1999 leadership handoff ever took place. With this much heavy lifting already having been done, (and with that shadow Board of Directors in place on the top floor of The Church Office Building) turning the SLOC broken eggs into an omelette was a job well within the competency of any number of persons.
And, yeah, the Mormons ended up with a potentially deeply flawed Presidential Candiate. But it's still a win/win! "Mormonism as a Cult" is clearly on the wane as more and more evangelicals now come to terms with the fact that 2012 is now Obama or Romney. And The Mormon Church runs a massive world wide Missionary program, the credibility of which clearly becomes enhanced in many eyes by the Romney candidacy.
And, who, knows, they could still get lucky and win the whole jackpot!
(I mean, is there anything any crazier than Mormom Harry Reid being the Senator from Sin City?)