Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in Utah today to accept the endorsement of a majority of GOP members of the Utah Legislature and, of course, raise money for his campaign.
The former Utah Olympic leader and Massachusetts governor is scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City just before a 4:45 p.m. photo opportunity with state lawmakers at the Grand America Hotel that will be followed by a fund-raiser.
Romney has the backing of 45 of the 55 Republicans in the Utah House and 16 of the 21 GOP state senators, said Kirk Jowers, a key adviser to the Romney campaign and head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
And although GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is supporting Arizona Sen. John McCain for president, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert is behind Romney and even traveled to Boston for a January campaign event that raised $6.5 million in a single day.
"To have the lieutenant governor and a supermajority of the House and Senate endorse Gov. Romney at this time is an honor for Gov. Romney and it shows the tremendous support he has in Utah," Jowers told the Deseret Morning News.
Jowers said Huntsman's endorsement of McCain "never seemed to enter into the equation" for Utah lawmakers, who were asked last week at the same time Romney formally announced he was running for president whether they wanted to sign on as Romney supporters.
Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said it was an easy choice.
"Mitt did a great job here with the Olympics," Bramble said. "He has some real potential. Look what he's done in Massachusetts. He's a consensus builder. I think he'll have a real support base here in Utah."
Romney already can count on Utahns to raise money. His Commonwealth political action committees were heavily funded by Utahns, including Huntsman's father, billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., who is now one of the Romney campaign's finance chairmen.
Today's fund-raising dinner at Grand America costs a reported $1,000 a person, plus another $1,300 to attend a special VIP reception. Another fund-raising event is scheduled for Wednesday in St. George and then Romney leaves Utah.
The only event open to the media is the photo opportunity with Romney and the Utah lawmakers, according to his campaign. He will not make any public appearances, even though his visit comes during the five-year anniversary of the 2002 Winter Games.
The former head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee that staged Utah's successful Olympics has been on the campaign trail since announcing his bid for the presidency Feb. 13, in Michigan, the state where his late father served as governor.This will be his first trip to Utah as a declared candidate. Romney and his family spent the Christmas holidays at their Deer Valley vacation home, discussing whether he would enter the race.