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Mitt Romney to dash for cash in Utah amid swing states stops, debate prep

Utahns have donated $4.8M to campaign, likely $1M more Tuesday

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(Utahns are) energized about (Romney) because they know him to some extent. Whether they’ve met him personally, they know what he did for our Olympics. They feel a kinship toward him – Kirk Jowers

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney will make speeches and mingle with voters in swing states over the next several weeks. But he's in Utah on Tuesday for one thing: cash.

And the visit comes at a time when news reports say there appears to be some strife in his campaign.

As he has earlier this year, the Republican presidential nominee will attend a big-money fundraiser at a Salt Lake hotel but is not scheduled to make any public appearances. Winning Utah, where's he's considered a "favorite son," in November is a foregone conclusion for the former Massachusetts governor.

Romney will spend only a couple of hours in the state between campaign stops in battleground states and preparing for the first debate with President Barack Obama on Oct. 3 in Denver.

Longtime Romney backer Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Utahns love to see Romney and the candidate would love to stage a rally here.

"But the fact is he has 50 days to win or lose this election and he has to stay focused," he said.

Democrats, too, love to see Romney in the state, said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis.

"It's always good to have Mitt Romney back to Utah just because he's kind of part of our tribe a little bit here in Utah. And also he takes money away from Utah Republicans, and it also means the time spent here in Utah is time not spent in Ohio or in Colorado or in Nevada," he said.

Despite not seeing Romney much, Utahns have been generous to his campaign. His fundraisers pull in anywhere from $750,000 to $1 million, part of which has gone to the Romney Victory Fund and shared with the national GOP as well as some state parties.

A fundraiser attended in Provo by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan earlier this month reportedly brought in at least $1 million.

Residents have contributed more than $2 million to Romney for President this year, according to the Federal Elections Commission. Romney's monthly financial disclosure reports for 2012 show Utah donations peaked in March at $702,973 but have exceeded $215,000 the past three months. Those include donations ranging from a few dollars to the maximum $5,000 allowed under federal election law.

In all, Utahns have given $4.8 million to Romney's campaign since he announced his second presidential bid last June, according to the FEC.

Jowers called Utah "reliably supportive" of Romney, noting many contributors had never given to a political campaign before.

"They're energized about him because they know him to some extent. Whether they've met him personally, they know what he did for our Olympics. They feel a kinship toward him," he said.

But perhaps not so much in Salt Lake County.

Utah Policy reported the results of a poll that showed Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson has a slightly higher favorability rating than Romney in Utah's largest county.

The California-based public policy research firm FM3 found 62 percent of voters have a very or somewhat favorable impression of Romney. Matheson, meantime, garnered a 64 percent very or somewhat favorable rating.

Romney also had a higher unfavorable rating, with 33 percent seeing him as very or somewhat unfavorable to Matheson's 24 percent. FM3 surveyed 400 Salt Lake County residents. The poll has a plus or minus 4.9 percent error margin.

Tuesday's fundraiser at the Grand America hotel includes a $25,000-per-person roundtable discussion with the candidate and $1,000 per-plate luncheon. Romney is expected to leave town with another $1 million in his war chest.

Also Tuesday, the Romney-Ryan campaign bus will kick off a three-day tour in Utah with stops in Midvale, Layton and Logan. Sen. Orrin Hatch, 4th Congressional District candidate Mia Love and Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright will stand in for the presidential ticket. Love was in Nevada on Sunday stumping for Romney.

Romney goes to the Utah well one last time as his campaign has reportedly hit some snags.

Politico published a story Sunday detailing turmoil, infighting and mismanagement within the Romney campaign. It cites several unidentified campaign insiders' concerns about Romney's strategy — from missed opportunities in Tampa and an aversion to policy specifics to a hastily assembled acceptance speech and response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

In an interview with Telemundo, Romney sought to downplay the report, saying, “I’ve got a terrific campaign. My senior campaign people work extraordinarily well together. I work well with them.”

Polls showed Romney did not get much of a bump after the GOP convention, and Obama now has an edge in a race that for months has been within the margin of error.

The Romney campaign also is retooling its message for the stretch run, focusing on what he would do if elected.

Stuart Stevens, Romney's top strategist, told Politico that the idea is to frame the election as "status quo versus change" and couch Romney as the one with ideas and specific proposals.

With seven weeks to go before Election Day, campaign aides say Romney plans to release a new batch of TV ads, re-focus his campaign appearances on his five-point economic plan and make a series of speeches aimed at offering voters a more concrete outline of his plans for the country, according to the Associated Press.

Contributing: Richard Piatt

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy