Copyright 2012, Deseret News
PARK CITY — Noted Republicans gathered at an elite club Friday, bringing money and national political clout to Mia Love and her push to unseat Rep. Jim Matheson from Congress.
Love, however, was tending to the needs of her city's residents, some of whom were gathered at temporary shelters in Saratoga Springs, waiting out a burning blaze in the hills above their homes.
Among the 60 or so in attendance at the exclusive event held at Glenwild Golf Club, was Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, in town to support presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his weekend fundraising efforts, and Love at her Friday night event.
Ryan brought along some generous donors and the event hauled in more than the $65,000 that was expected to help boost Love's campaign in Utah's 4th Congressional District. The evening's VIP reception came at a $2,500 asking price, with attendance to Ryan's speech at $1,000 a head.
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, spoke of the need to get the country headed back in the right direction, and to re-establish the American Dream as an opportunity and not something the government hands out, according to one attendee.
"We want to extend the universal ideals of this country, as an opportunity society with a safety net, a society of upward mobility, a society where we promote equal opportunity," Ryan told the Deseret News following the event. "I think Mia Love is a perfect ambassador of those ideals."
Ryan said Love offers a unique approach to the GOP and he said Washington supports her.
Love sent her husband, Jason, to speak to the group in her stead as the fire burned in Utah County. He hand-carried and delivered her words: "The people of Saratoga Springs come first. They need me tonight and I am here with them."
Ryan declined to comment on whether he is considering a run on the vice presidential ticket, but he is one of several possible picks participating in a Utah retreat for Romney's biggest donors and fundraisers that continues through Sunday. To be invited, supporters must have given at least $50,000 or raised a minimum of $250,000.
Other GOP heavy-hitters gathered this weekend at Deer Valley include the 2008 presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain; strategist Karl Rove, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Love is apparently the only Utah candidate tapping into the weekend event to raise money. She is supported by Romney's son, Josh, who lives in Millcreek and has flirted with running for office himself.
A new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll of registered voters in the new 4th Congressional District shows Love trailing her Democratic opponent, who has served six terms. She has the support of 38 percent of respondents compared to 53 percent for Matheson.
Eight percent of those polled by Dan Jones & Associates said they were undecided in the November match-up. The poll was conducted June 15-21 of 379 voters in the 4th District and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percent.
Pollster Dan Jones said the gap between Love and Matheson will close before the race is ultimately decided.
"There are still a lot of people who don't know who Mia Love is in the 4th District. But they will, " Jones said, predicting the race will attract even more national attention between now and November.
"I am not worried about early polls," Love said Friday. "I was behind in the polls leading up to convention and walked away with 70 percent of the vote because people want a representative with a record of fighting for conservative principles and finding sustainable solutions to the problems we face."
Matheson was similarly optimistic. The seat is not contested in the upcoming primary election on Tuesday.
"I feel really confident," Matheson said. After representing the 2nd District since first being elected in 2000, he decided to run this year for the state's new fourth seat in Congress, which includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties.
"Most people are familiar with me. They know that I'm different," Matheson said. "My opponent wants to make this race all about party, party, party."
He declined to criticize her Friday night fundraiser. "I don't want to politicize the fire and talk about a fundraiser in Park City," Matheson said. "I'm not going to do that."
But State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said Love deserved no praise for staying away from the event. "Good for her. She just plain did her duty. Nothing special to be applauded for, she's where she should be," Dabakis said.
He still had criticism for the fundrasier itself, saying Love has been "bought off, lock, stock and barrel by all of this Washington money."
Dabakis acknowledged that Matheson also counts on cash from the nation's capital, but said the state's lone Democrat in Congress maintains his independence.