Mia Love, Jason Chaffetz in the GOP convention spotlight

Published: Sunday, Aug. 26 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

Mia Love is interviewed at her home in Saratoga Springs, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012

Ravell Call, Deseret News

TAMPA, Fla. — While this week’s Republican National Convention marks the official debut of Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee for president, plenty of other politicians will also have their moment in the spotlight, including a pair of Utahns.

For 4th District GOP congressional candidate Mia Love, that moment comes Tuesday night, when she addresses the convention. The prime speaking spot is the latest show of support from top GOP leaders for the newcomer on the national scene.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, already well-known as a Romney surrogate, rehearsed his speech on the convention stage over the weekend but lost his Monday afternoon speaking slot after the entire day's schedule was cancelled because of Tropical Storm Issac. He said he now expects to speak around 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and a GOP delegate to the convention, said Love is the one to watch since Chaffetz is an established name in the party.

“This is just a chance to kind of solidify his status. For Mia, she is all potential in most people’s eyes,” Jowers said.  “If this were the NBA, Jason is an established star in the league. And Mia is potentially a first-round draft pick and that’s always more exciting.”

Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright said Love’s appearance is a big boost in her bid to unseat the state’s only Democrat in Washington, Rep. Jim Matheson, and become the GOPs first black woman in Congress.

“It’s a huge opportunity for Mia to introduce herself to the constituents of the 4th District,” Wright said, demonstrating to voters that she has the “national support and national clout and can get something done on Day 1.”

Jowers said a strong showing by Love could mean even more support from outside Utah.

And a great performance? Well, he said, eight years ago, a then-Illinois state senator made his mark at the Democratic National Convention, President Barack Obama.

“It has the potential, no matter how remote, to be kind of a supersonic launcher like it was for Barack Obama, who in 2004, was less known than Mia Love when he gave his speech,” Jowers said.

University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle also sees that possibility with Love’s speech.

“Two words for you – Barack Obama,” Hagle said. “It may bring you enough attention you become a star…Or it can be, you have this spot, you do OK.”

Jowers said it would take “a pretty spectacular flub to really damage” Love but she faces a tough race against the six-term Democrat no matter what happens on stage.

Love said just before leaving for Tampa that she was not feeling the pressure — yet.

“I’m sure I’m going to get up there and go, ‘Oh my gosh,’ “ Love said. “I’m sure as soon as I get up on that stage, the nerves will kick in. I’m just hoping I don’t trip.”

Her goal, she said, is to do her best to make the state proud.

“We’ll talk about the values here in Utah we feel are important,” she said, citing fiscal discipline, personal responsibility and the “preservation of the American dream.”

Love said she’ll be introduced to the convention via a video. The national exposure follows several events held for her in Utah by high-profile Republicans, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee.

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