ST. PAUL, Minn. — Red may bring tourists to Utah, but it does not give Utahn Republicans in Minnesota much of a view.

Despite their historically loyal support of GOP candidates, Utah delegates at the Republican National Convention are stuck near the back rows on the floor. Their view is often obscured by delegations in front of them, and their neighbors are mostly territories instead of states.

"It's nice to be one of the islands," joked Utah Senate President John Valentine of Orem. He was referring to the delegations surrounding them, which include the territories of Puerto Rico and Guam, as well as Hawaii, which is seated in front of them, and Rhode Island.

Their location has not made delegates happy, most of whom feel they should be rewarded for their strong support of the party. After all, Utah gave President Bush his largest margin of victory in 2004.

"It's a very negative incentive for the party," said delegate Merrill Cook. "They should use supply side economics as a model for the seating."

Still, the delegates understand the politics involved. Prime seats went to those states that will likely decide the presidential election. Those include swing states like New Mexico, Ohio and Florida.

"It's frustrating because of the support we've had" for Republicans, said Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert. "But I'd rather have to sit in the back now if it helps us win the election in November."

The delegation's seating, however, is on par with its lodging. Delegates are staying in Bloomington, which is about a half-hour by car — and much longer by convention bus — to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where the convention is held.

Their location has elicited fewer complaints, primarily because the Sofitel is a very nice hotel.

But their distance from anywhere important — the hotel is surrounded by a couple of other hotels and a number of office parks — did get the attention of former Massachusetts governor and one-time presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"When I heard I was visiting the Utah delegation, I didn't think I'd actually be going to Utah," he said during a Monday morning visit with them.

He repeated the joke Tuesday to the Massachusetts delegation, which is given distant lodging and poor seating for the opposite reason as Utah: historically poor support of GOP candidates.

"I know we're the bluest state in American and it's not a surprise they put us so far away," he told his hometown delegates. "But I got the chance also to visit the Utah delegation, and they're the reddest state in America and they're just as far away."


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