MINDEN, Nev. — The wife of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was in northern Nevada on Wednesday to meet with party loyalists and seek support for her husband's White House bid as the Silver State prepares for its early role in the 2012 presidential contest.

Ann Romney attended a "meet and greet" with about 20 people at the Douglas County Republican headquarters in Minden early in the day, before heading to Reno for a similar event there.

"This election has huge, huge consequences," she said. "There is only one person out there who can beat Obama, and that is my husband."

Ann Romney touted his experience as former Massachusetts governor and with the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

But speaking to a largely female audience, she also portrayed him as a husband and father, "my high school sweetheart," and "the person who stood by my side" when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998.

"We've been married 42 years. I know the guy pretty well," Ann Romney said.

She was joined by former Nevada first lady Dema Guinn, who tearfully recalled that Wednesday would have been her husband's 75th birthday. Former Gov. Kenny Guinn died in July 2010 when he fell from the roof of his Las Vegas home while doing repairs.

Kenny Guinn and Mitt Romney met and became friends during their time as governors. Guinn supported Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential election.

"He believed in Mitt so strongly," Dema Guinn said, "and our country today is in terrible shape."

"I know Kenny's with me on this."

June and John Shafer talked with Ann Romney at the Minden event. Later, both said they haven't decided who they will back in the GOP presidential contest — but whoever it is will get their vote in next year's general election.

"We're going to be voting for the Republican nominee," John Shafer said.

Mitt Romney has made several trips to the Silver State in recent months and plans to unveil a jobs plan early next month in Nevada, a state that leads the nation in unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures.

Nevada is scheduled to host the nation's third presidential nomination contest Feb. 18, after New Hampshire and Iowa.

Romney won Nevada's GOP caucus three years ago, thanks to the state's significant number of Mormon voters and the absence of many of his rivals.

The 2008 Republican presidential caucus in Nevada was nonbinding, and most GOP White House hopefuls didn't actively campaign here. But rules will be different next time, when the caucus results will be binding on the delegation, and delegates to the national convention will be apportioned based on caucus results.