SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney began his campaign detour through Utah on Friday, beginning his Olympic anniversary weekend at a $1,000-per-plate fundraising dinner at the Little America hotel.
Hundreds of people filed into the hotel's main salon to hear Romney, who also took photographs and mingled with a few lucky folks who were willing to dish out an extra $1,500 for that privilege.
The event was the culmination of a full day of appearances for Romney, who flew in from Idaho on his campaign for the Republican nomination for president.
While in Utah, he is also scheduled to participate in some Olympic anniversary events today before returning to the campaign trail.
As for those Utahns who heard Romney's remarks at the closed-door fundraiser, they were not disappointed.
"It's an honor for our state and a great honor for the people of Utah," said Stansbury Park resident Toni Broadhead. "I think he represents Utah well."
Romney supporter Michael O'Connor was in Utah for business from California. He said Romney is the candidate who best represents his values and who he believes would help move the country forward economically as president.
"He brings a disciplined approach to our financial mess that we've gotten into," O'Connor said. "We need to make sure that we don't spend more money than we make and have a balanced budget and reduce our debt."
This morning, Romney will have breakfast at a private home with some of his top Utah contributors as well as some from neighboring states, a source said, before turning his attention to the state's Olympic anniversary.
He is expected to attend a private reunion of Salt Lake Organizing Committee employees in the afternoon before delivering a speech at a special "Stars on Ice" show at EnergySolutions Arena.
Romney reportedly had planned on staying in Utah through Sunday to attend LDS Church services and spend time with family, but those plans could change with critical Republican presidential primaries approaching that could prompt Romney to return to the campaign trail sooner than previously scheduled.
In Boise earlier on Friday, Romney said Rick Santorum isn't a fiscal conservative, directly attacking his rival for the first time in more than a week.
"If you want a fiscal conservative, you can't vote for Rick Santorum, because he's not," Romney said at a campaign rally before a fundraiser. "I'm a fiscal conservative."
Romney has avoided criticizing the former Pennsylvania senator without prompting since Santorum won contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on Feb. 8, though he did attack Santorum by name during a rally in Atlanta. His campaign and their super PAC allies are attacking Santorum in TV ads in Michigan.
Romney on Friday accused Santorum of expanding government during his two terms as a congressman and two terms as a senator.
"I hope that people take a very close look at his record because he was in Congress for about 20 years and during that time the size of the federal government doubled," Romney said.
"And, by the way, he voted to raise the debt ceiling five different times without compensating cuts," Romney added. He said Santorum voted for "billions of dollars in earmarks."
Romney and his backers are vastly outspending Santorum in next-up Michigan, Romney's home state. A loss there would be a major blow for Romney. He was born in Michigan and his father, George, served as governor there.
Contributing: Associated Press
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: JasenLee1