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Utah volunteers head to Nevada and give Romney an edge

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 1 2012 7:08 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks to a television interview following a campaign appearance.

Chris Carlson, Associated Press

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Mitt Romney's race for the GOP nomination comes with a decided edge over his chief rivals: the ground game.  It's a sophisticated organization, coupled with hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers.  

Many of them, like Sandy resident Wanda Amann, are based in Utah and will be streaming into Nevada for this weekend's Republican caucus.    

"I'm just so excited to be part of his team," Amann said. "This deployment of all these volunteers that are headed to Nevada is just a show of the grass-roots support that Governor Romney has nationwide."

Even as Romney was campaigning in Florida, his organizers were mass emailing a two-page flier under the heading "Nevada Deployment." It spells out the detailed strategy for those who will make phone calls on his behalf and knock on the doors of Utah's western neighbors.

The flier suggests volunteers bring their own cellphones, laptop computers or iPads.  It recommends a specific Las Vegas hotel, where a block of rooms has been reserved, noting the volunteer will need to pay their own way.

That's not a problem for BYU senior Matt Whitlock, who also plans to load up a car with friends to head to Las Vegas to help.

 "We can't give thousands of dollars, but we can give a weekend," Whitlock said.  "We can give $50, $100, so that we can stay overnight and drive down there."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, himself a former presidential candidate, said the Romney campaign's organizational edge over his GOP primary opponents is built in part on having run once before, in 2008.

"Romney is the only one who has a good organization intact," Hatch said.  "He's the only one who has raised significant amounts of money."

University of of Utah political scientist Tim Chambless said Romney's ground game is greatly helped by supporters who share the candidate's LDS faith, especially in a state like Nevada, where Mormon voters make up 25 percent of the caucus electorate.

"In the swing states it can help him," Chambless said.  "In the Western states it can help him."

Whitlock can attest to the valuable services volunteers can provide. Recently, in a well-staffed Romney campaign volunteer call center in Utah County, Whitlock said he joined a group calling likely GOP voters in the early primary state of New Hampshire.

"I remember our Orem call center made the most calls in the country. I think we made over 13,000," Whitlock said. "So, I think there's plenty of enthusiam."

Amann shares a similar story, showing the campaign's computerized system, which allows volunteers to call from home, with scripts guiding the volunteer if the voter backs Romney or one of his opponents. Amann earned a campaign bumper sticker with Mitt Romney's signature for making hundreds of calls from home.

"That's what lends my support to him so much is that he is so well-organized," Amann said. "It's just amazing. It's just like this little machine. And it's just chugging along and he's going to win."

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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