TAMPA, Fla. — The crowd was so loud by the end of 4th District congressional candidate Mia Love's speech Tuesday to the Republican National Convention that it was all but impossible for members of the Utah delegation to hear her final words.
It didn't matter.
The delegates chanted "Mia, Mia, Mia" while waving bright orange towels emblazoned with her name while state GOP Chairman Thomas Wright high-fived Love campaign consultant Stephen Hunter.
"She couldn't have done any better," Wright said of what was supposed to be a two minute speech that went on much longer because of the repeated cheers, whoops and chants.
"She really feeds off of it," he said of the crowd's enthusiasm. "We saw it in the state convention, when she gave a great speech that she won the nomination with, when she really wasn't supposed to win."
Hunter marveled at her poise.
"At every level, she was pitch perfect. It was awesome," he said. "She went way longer and she handled it well. She didn't start speaking and get nervous. She just absorbed it. It was cool. It was so cool."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he spoke to Love earlier about the speech. "I said, 'Mia, are you OK, are you a little bit uptight?' She said, 'Oh, no, I'm going to go out there and knock them cold,'" Hatch said. "She's going to be a tremendous superstar in our party."
Hatch shook his head. "It's unnerving to get out there and then people are applauding and yelling, 'Mia, Mia, Mia' and then, 'USA, USA'….you know you only have so much time. She handled it with aplomb."
Even one of Love's rivals for the GOP nomination in the state's newest congressional district said her performance will bring more national attention to her campaign, already backed by party leaders.
"I think just the idea that she is a breaking a lot of stereotypes of what a Republican is, being female and black….I think she did break out," said former Utah House Rep. Stephen Sandstrom. "It was a good move."
Love would be the first black GOP woman in Congress if she defeats the only Democrat Utah has sent to Washington, Rep. Jim Matheson.
Love's husband, Jason, watched from the VIP seats alongside the wife of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Tagg Romney, one of Mitt Romney's five sons.
"I was nervous. Every time she's on stage, it's like I'm on stage," Jason Love said. "She has nerves of steel and I'm a little more timid."
Before her speech, a video featuring Love talking about herself and her campaign was shown. It included shots of her young family, her work as an exercise instructor and as mayor of Saratoga Springs.
On stage, she began her speech by saying she was "thrilled to add Utah's voice to support for Mitt Romney," then launched into the story of her Haitian immigrant parents and the other "patriots and pioneers" who help ground America in self-reliance.
She went after President Barack Obama, calling his vision of the country "a divided one, often pitting us against each other based on income level, gender and social status."
One of her biggest applause lines came when she said, "We are not better off than we were four years ago, and no rhetoric, bumper sticker or Hollywood campaign can change that."
Love appeared to relish the moment, smiling broadly and even pausing for the crowd's reactions, thanking them for their applause.
"I kind of fed off the energy and Utah was right there," Love said. "I was really excited. It felt comfortable." She laughed when asked if she was concerned her time on stage might be cut short because her speech was lasting longer than scheduled.
"No, no, no. I just kind of did my thing," she said. "I didn't want to speak through anything and wanted it to kind of sink in."
University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle said Love's speech may well raise her national profile.
"Pretty powerful stuff," he said, especially compared to the other candidates who spoke earlier, on what was the first full day of convention activity.
"I thought she did very well in terms of her delivery," Hagle said. "There were certainly more delegates in the hall during her speech, but she clearly got their attention — something that's often hard to do in such settings."
Hagle said it's no surprise the GOP would like to have her become a spokeswoman for party issues "as an attractive and articulate black woman."
NBC Senior Political Editor Mark Murray said Love is getting lots of attention already from the party.
"You usually don't see this type of build up," Murray said. "Rarely have we seen somebody who's running fora House seat get this attention at a Republican National Convention, and this time and time slot."
Murray also said Love is on her way to becoming known nationally.
"Mia Love will be one of the names that they'll remember," he said. "Then again, she does have a tough race going on."
Utah delegate Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said a lot of people know who Love is after her speech.
"I hope her website is ready to get a lot of donations. They'll probably be coming in fast and furious," Jowers said, adding that she understands there's still a lot of work ahead.
"I've talked to her and she's very grounded on what this means," Jowers said. "She knows she hasn't won anything yet."
Even before Love's speech, her campaign reportedly had turned down more than 100 requests for interviews from out-of-state media, including CNN's Wolf Blitzer and ABC's Barbara Walters. The New York Times turned up at the delegation's breakfast gatherings the past two days.
Love is expected to spend much of Wednesday doing national media interviews and return to Utah on Thursday, in time to watch Romney's acceptance speech at her West Jordan campaign headquarters at a party catered by Hires Big H.
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