Even though Republican critics are attempting to paint Mitt Romney as a "carpetbagger," it sure looks as if he's going all-in with the Utah GOP.
Mitt Romney's U.S. Senate campaign is reportedly going big on a grassroots campaign strategy. Romney has decided to forego using paid signature gatherers to secure a place on the GOP primary ballot this year. Instead, they're using volunteers and pushing hard for supporters to attend next week's caucus meetings.
Romney's campaign tells UtahPolicy.com they're working to gather the 28,000 statewide signatures they need through campaign volunteers instead of paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 for a professional firm to meet the goal.
"We've been out gathering signatures at many of our events," a source in the Romney campaign says. "We've had a great response so far, especially during our visits to Utah Valley Universtiy and Southern Utah University."
It was widely thought that Romney would drop the cash, somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000, to get on the ballot with minimal effort. In fact, several people close to Romney told UtahPolicy.com as much in the days leading up to his campaign announcement. So what changed?
"We want to get as many people involved in the campaign as we can," the Romney campaign source says. "We need to get people to sign our petition or go to the caucus meetings and get elected as delegates to support Mitt at the state convention."
Some Republicans are privately grumbling that using volunteers to get the signatures is a sign Romney may not be taking the battle to get on the ballot seriously. But, those fears may be unfounded.
At the GOP convention, it's possible Romney could be forced into a primary election this year. St. George attorney Larry Meyers is generating some buzz among the right wing of the GOP. State Auditor John Dougall is also considering running for the Senate seat.
However, it sure looks like Romney is pushing hard to win the nomination at the convention. He's been meeting with supporters and potential delegates around the state. Their all-out push to recruit delegates includes mailers like the one below.
There's plenty of anecdotal evidence thatpeople showed up at the 2012 Utah caucuses specifically to vote for Romney. That may happen again this year.
Romney's grassroots efforts could pay off in more way than one this year. Sources tell UtahPolicy.com that Romney will campaign for them at "cottage meetings" this year ahead of the convention. That could be a big boost for mainstream Republicans who are facing intra-party challenges from their right. The Romney stamp of approval is hard to discount.
There could be another long-term effect as well. If a large number of pro-Romney delegates are elected next week, it could have a dramatic impact on the direction of the Utah Republican Party. It stands to reason that an influx of Romney-leaning delegates may have a moderating influence on the party.
Several Republicans have said privately that moving the party toward the middle may be the only way current chair Rob Anderson can win another term in 2019. Right now, a small group of dissidents, led by Phill Wright, the man Anderson beat for the chairmanship last year, are holding the party hostage and attempting to thwart Anderson at nearly every turn. If a there aren't a sizeable number of moderate delegates elected this year, Anderson could be toast. Romney's efforts could turn that tide.