Ann Romney thanks Mitt's campaign volunteers in Utah
Jeremy Castellano, Deseret News
OREM — Ann Romney bent down to accept a drawing from six-year old Kyla Nielsen during a tour of her husband's Utah presidential campaign headquarters Friday that capped off a day of fundraising.
The drawing portrayed "Mitt Romney talking up on that stage," Kyla explained to a reporter, adding that she knows "maybe he's going to be the president" and should be, "because he's the greatest."
She solemnly nodded when asked if she was going to tell her friends about meeting a woman who could become the nation's next first lady.
Kyla may be a little biased in her assessment of the 2012 GOP presidential race. Her father, Brett Nielsen, is a full-time volunteer for Romney's campaign and her little brother is named for the presidential contender.
"We couldn't decide on names so I said, 'If he comes on President's Day, we have to name him Mitt,' " Jennifer Nielsen said of her three-year-old son, Mitt. "So sure enough, I had him on President's Day."
Jennifer Nielsen said the young family watches the Republican presidential debates together. "And I try to teach my kids what's going on," she said. "I tell them it's like the captain of America, and we try to decide which one we think would be the best captain, so it's kind of fun."
In the Nielsen household, there's only one answer — Romney. "He has great experience about how to take circumstances that might not be the best, like our economy, and turn them around to the better," she said.
That experience, she and others gathered to meet Ann Romney said, includes taking over the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and turning them into a success.
Ann Romney also referenced Utah's Olympics in a brief speech to the volunteers filling a ground-floor office in an office and apartment complex near Utah Valley University.
"We're all very thankful, I think in this room, to Mitt for the work he did on the Salt Lake Olympic Games," she said. "We want that same effort to go toward turning around the United States of America."
She reminded them that the first votes in the presidential race are just a month away. "We're in a sprint now. We have a lot of contacts that need to be made," she said. "We're energized. We're confident."
Earlier Friday, Ann Romney held both breakfast and luncheon fundraisers for her husband's campaign. She said in an interview she welcomed the opportunity to return to Utah.
"It's a joy to be back here. It's home to us in so many ways on an emotional level," Ann Romney said. "Every where I go, people will comment about the good feelings they had about these Games and about how the world came together."
She said the Utah headquarters "is a great place to be because we have all the young people here from the universities and we have a great base of support of people that know us from before, from the Olympics."
The state holds special memories for Ann Romney, who spent her time in Utah rebuilding her strength after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
"Mitt and I love the people here. We love the community," she said. "We love the patriotism and everything that we feel when we come to this state."
Wallace Harkness, who handles sales and marketing for a Lindon energy company, squeezed in an hour of telephone calls Friday to potential Romney supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire just to meet Ann Romney.
"I first thanked her, because I know it takes a lot of energy and commitment to be involved at this level, constantly under scrutiny," Harkness said. "You know, always being observed."
Ann Romney said she's enjoying her solo stops on the campaign trail, which include appearances in the key early voting states of Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire and Nevada as well as raising money throughout the country.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said one of Ann Romney's "greatest contributions is that she is able to show people a different side of Gov. Romney than they may see on the campaign trail."
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and a longtime Romney supporter, agreed. "The wonderful thing about Ann," he said, "is that no one humanizes her husband more."
Contributing: Richard Piatt
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