Gov. Mitt Romney is making a big play this year to get supporters to Tuesday night's caucus meetings.
The conventional wisdom would suggest that Romney's name ID, a network of political support, and personal wealth would simply power him to an effortless win in Utah's U.S. Senate race - especially with the state's hybrid nomination system that will ensure him a place on the primary ballot through signature gathering.
According to the latest UtahPolicy.com survey, Romney has a 46-point lead over his closest rival, Democrat Jenny Wilson. But that expansive gap does not mean Romney is complacent heading into November.
Romney says he's taking his campaign to the people, with an eye on winning the GOP nomination at the convention
"I felt it was important to see every county in the state to meet with caucus attendees and get a sense of what's happening in their particular community or county," Romney tells UtahPolicy.com.
Romney decided to forego hiring professional signature gatherers to secure a place on the primary ballot. Instead, as UtahPolicy.com reported earlier, he's using volunteers to get the 28,000 names he needs. Romney says that's all part of his strategy to hit every corner of the state.
"Utah is a state with many different dimensions and very different challenges," he said. "What's going on in Blanding is very different than what's going on in Logan or Salt Lake or Lehi. Lehi is growing like crazy, but San Juan, Wayne, and Piute counties are shrinking. Their biggest export is their kids. I needed to understand that county by county."
Romney is using that shoe-leather approach to signature gathering as a way to recruit his supporters to not only attend Tuesday night's caucus meetings but to run for delegate slots. Of particular focus for Romney and his wife Ann is encouraging women to run for those delegate slots, too.
"The state is nearly 50/50 men and women," says Ann. "But, the delegates are 80-percent men. That needs to change."
"When I get up in front of these supporters and urge them to run for delegate slots, I always say to the women who are there, 'We really need you to run for these positions, too,'" Mitt chimes in.
So, how does he square his focus on Tuesday's caucuses with his signature-gathering efforts, which might upset some of the more traditional elements within the Utah GOP?
"I want to make sure that I get on the ballot, and I think anybody is wise to wear a belt and suspenders," he jokes. "But, both processes get me closer to the citizens and give me a chance to hear what their concerns are."
When Romney entered the race, the easy storyline for the media was to focus on the animosity between him and President Trump, especially after his much-publicized speech during the 2016 campaign where he referred to Trump as a "con man" and a "fake."
That narrative ended almost immediately when Trump tweeted his endorsement for Romney shortly after he announced his candidacy, something Romney did not expect.
"The fact that he did suggests he respects people who speak their mind. That's what I've always done, and that's a family trait. Not just my dad, but all the way back to my great-great grandfather who battled with Brigham Young over the design of the St. George Tabernacle. Brigham Young said, 'This is the first man I've seen who's as stubborn as I am." Says Romney with a laugh. "There's an old family saw which is the Romney's didn't descend from apes; we descended from mules."
Romney says he does have his disagreements with President Trump, but he agrees with much of what has happened in D.C. under a Republican Congress and administration.
"I've supported the policies of the president in his first year, and if elected, I'll continue to support policies I agree with I think are right for the people of Utah and the country," he said. "That doesn't mean if he says or does something I think is divisive to the country that I'd be silent."
Romney also points out he has a long relationship with President Trump, so he's hoping he'll have his ear if he goes back to D.C.
"Hopefully I'll be able to influence his thinking. I've known the president for many years and would hope that relationship with him would allow me to have some influence and get him to pay extra attention to Utah issues."
Romney turned 71 this year. He would be 83 at the end of a potential second term. Does he plan to term limit himself if he wins in November?
"I haven't gone through the calculation of how old I'd be, but I think my age is the effective term limit in my case. I will not serve as long as Orrin Hatch because that would take me to, I think, 112. But, it's unlikely I would serve more than two or three terms."
You can listen to a podcast of our full conversation with Romney here.