Mia Love, Jason Chaffetz drawing new attention to Utah at GOP convention
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
TAMPA, Fla. — Utah is getting plenty of attention during this week's Republican National Convention, and not just because of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's ties to the state.
One day after her well-received convention speech, 4th District congressional candidate Mia Love sat down Wednesday with a number of national media outlets, including CNN and The New Yorker magazine.
And Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, continued his duties as a key Romney surrogate, appearing with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Romney's son, Josh, at a breakfast meeting of the GOP delegation from North Carolina, a swing state.
Gov. Gary Herbert seemed to relish the attention Utah is receiving. He was able to bring one of the nation's highest-profile Republicans, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to speak to Utah's delegation Wednesday at a breakfast meeting that was closed to the press.
"It's kind of a little like 'Mayberry R.F.D.' all grown up," Herbert said. "We are growing up, and we are a lot more sophisticated. We are probably a good example for other states. Maybe it's our time."
Herbert, too, has been fielding interview requests from the likes of the New York Times.
"We're glad to have Utah step up and be noticed and set the good example," he said.
Even as the governor was answering questions from a group of Utah reporters, an out-of-state journalist asked him whether Romney should be talking more about his Mormon faith.
"I think he needs to talk about his values, and he needs to talk about his principles and what he's going to do to turn this country around," Herbert said. "But I don't think people are so concerned about what his denomination is. They're concerned about his principles and values."
Utah delegate Carlene Walker, a former state senator and now chairwoman of the Visit Salt Lake convention and visitors bureau, was stopped on the floor of the convention for an interview by a TV station in Mexico.
"They were asking me what a Republican woman looks like," Walker said. "I pointed out Mia. Mia is not your standard Republican woman, but she is the face of a new spectrum of Republican women."
Love, who would be the first black GOP woman in Congress if she defeats Utah's lone Democrat in Washington, Rep. Jim Matheson, in November, had already been attracting national attention even before she was given a speaking slot.
But after giving a speech repeatedly interrupted by cheers, chants and applause Tuesday night, Love could hardly walk through the halls of the convention without being stopped.
Walker said she had to wait to get to her seat on the convention floor because members of the Hawaiian delegation were crowded around Love, presenting her with leis.
"They said, 'We want you to be elected. We loved your speech last night.' She's a rising star," Walker said of Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs. "She's the new face of the Republican Party."
Later, after Love made a live appearance on KSL-TV from above the convention floor, 13-year-old Clarke Patrone of Connecticut thrust a notebook at her and asked for an autograph.
"She signed it, 'Mia Love. Stay involved,'" Patrone said. He watched her speech after being told by his father, a GOP donor, that she was "a great, young conservative from Utah and a rising star in the party."
Patrone said he was "really moved by her message," citing the story of her parents immigrating to the United States with little more than determination.
"It was a great example, especially for young people," he said. "It really fired everyone up in the hall."
The young man said he gave Love a standing ovation.
"She earned it," Patrone said. "She definitely brings attention to a state that you don't hear about in the news too much."
His image of Utah? "I think of skiing to be honest," he said. Now, though, Patrone is adding Love to the list of what he knows about the Beehive State.
John Brieden, a former national commander of the American Legion, shook Love's hand.
"You knocked it out of the park last night, young lady," he said, before having his picture taken with Love.
Love said the national media wanted to know how it felt to be on stage and why she thought the convention crowd was so enthusiastic about her speech.
"I said, 'It's just because the truth resonates.' People say, 'Yeah, yeah. I believe that. Yeah, that's what I want,'" Love said. "It's what I signed up to do. It's what I told the 4th District I would do. I said I would take their values and represent Utah to Washington, not the other way around."
Chaffetz also had a speaking role at the convention, but his real impact in Tampa has been making appearances on behalf of the Romney campaign.
He said he's already been to five state delegation breakfasts, accompanied by other surrogates including actor Jon Voight and another Romney son, Tagg. Chaffetz said he shares stories about Mitt Romney, such as his time leading the 2002 Winter Games in Utah.
"I tell a little bit about the Olympics and how they ordered the 5-buck pizza and charged $1 a slice" to help balance the Games budget, he said. And Chaffetz also describes how, when his father died recently, Romney took time during a campaign road trip to comfort him.
"That's the Mitt Romney I've gotten to know," he said.
Chaffetz was also sent by the campaign to a Tea Party rally Monday that featured two former GOP presidential candidates, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and business executive Herman Cain.
"I just tried to make a case for Mitt Romney, which was a challenge for that group, but it went well," he said, even though he ended up having to run to the stage when he heard his name announced earlier than expected.
Chaffetz has also spoken on behalf of the Romney campaign in a number of TV and radio interviews, including on MSNBC and Fox News.
The campaign "had me show up on Friday, so I've been here for a while, but that's what they need me to do," a tired-sounding Chaffetz said.
And he may miss Rep. Paul Ryan's visit to Utah next week to offer a GOP viewpoint on behalf of the campaign in Charlotte, N.C., site of the Democratic National Convention.
Still, he said there have been some perks.
"I got to sit in the family box for a while," Chaffetz said, along with other Romney insiders including former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, now the head of planning for Romney's possible transition to the White House.
But, the congressman said, he was suddenly asked to leave the VIP seating Tuesday night when Ann Romney delivered her convention speech and was joined on stage by her husband.
"I saw later that Mitt and Ann Romney were sitting there," he said. "I understood why they moved us out."
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