ST. PAUL, Minn. Mitt Romney may not be on the GOP ticket, but Utah delegates to the Republican National Convention will no doubt give him a hero's welcome when he visits them at their Monday morning breakfast meeting.
"Next to John McCain and Sarah Palin, right now there is not a hotter name at this convention than Mitt Romney," Utah Republican Party Chairman Stan Lockhart told the Deseret News. "The fact we're getting him is pretty spectacular, given the fact he already knows where we stand."
Romney is focusing his attention during the four-day convention that begins Monday in St. Paul on swing states like Michigan and Ohio. But after repeated requests, he's making his first stop in Minnesota the Sofitel Hotel in nearby Bloomington to greet the Utah delegation.
After all, Utah gave him an overwhelming 90 percent of the vote in the state's Feb. 5 GOP presidential primary and at least $6 million in contributions to his campaign. Romney, the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like the majority of Utahns, dropped out of the presidential race in late February.
He was seen as a top candidate to join McCain on the November ballot as the Arizona senator's running mate. But McCain stunned the political world on Friday by naming Palin, 44, Alaska's youngest ever and first female governor.
Romney is set to campaign Sunday with McCain and Palin at a "Road to the Convention Rally" at a baseball stadium outside St. Louis.
On Tuesday, Romney is scheduled to address the convention. His speaking slot has not yet been announced. But as a likely presidential candidate in 2012 if the Republicans fail to keep the White House, Romney is expected to speak in prime time.While in Minnesota, Romney will also hold fundraisers for congressional candidates, serve a meal in a Salvation Army soup kitchen, speak to the conservative Christian International Democratic Union on "The Future of the Republican Party," and address a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.